Betty Francis • Special to The Desert Sun • November 14, 2010

With more than 68 million records sold, 15 Top 40 hits and dozens of prestigious awards on two continents, Petula Clark was declared “England's most successful female performer ever.”

And last week, she showed us why.

Clark headlined the Annenberg Theater's new season opening, which was sold out in advance to many of the desert's most prestigious philanthropists.

Clark's performance was incredibly diverse — with songs and anecdotes from many different roles and periods of her widely varied career. There was the Elvis period: “You Ain't Nothing but a Hound-dog,” part of it sung hilariously, as if by the Queen of England.

Then there was the “Finian's Rainbow” period with Fred Astaire and songs like “Look to the Rainbow” and “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” and her long-running role as Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber's “Sunset Boulevard.”

Clark looked slim and glamorous — and not just “for her age.” Her distinct voice, talent, humor and endearing attitude made for a fabulous evening of entertainment.

After singing a few sophisticated songs, Clark removed the hairpins from her upswept hairdo, shook her head and literally “let down her hair” as she swung into a rocking, upbeat arrangement of “Don't Sleep In The Subway.”

Getting downtown

Knowing what everyone wants to hear her sing, Clark teasingly clomped across the stage like an elderly grump saying in a raspy voice, “Why doesn't she just sing ‘Downtown' and go home?” Her impersonation brought down the house and only heightened anticipation for her biggest hit. When the time for her closing number finally arrived, Clark gave it her all, proving herself to be a two-fisted singer, alternating between two hand-held microphones for dramatic effect while the audience joined in with lots of timely hand clapping on the chorus.