Pet Tames Vegas Throng With Song
by John L Scott
LAS VEGAS - She's five feet tall and weighs 94 pounds and when she walked onto the huge stage at the Caesars Palace with three dozen musicians back of her she looked like a little girl lost.
But when Petula Clark started to sing she became 10 feet tall.
This mighty mite of song kept a capacity first night audience (approximately 1,000) cheering for her all the way through a program that included several of her record hits, numbers from her two recent pictures, Finian's Rainbow and the as yet unreleased MGM - Arthur Jacobs production, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, in which she co-stars as the wife of Peter O'Toole; and other tunes, old and new.
In a medium where so many song stars sound like so many other song stars, Miss Clark stands out like that well-known lighthouse. She sounds only like Petula Clark and if you've ever heard her in person or listened to one of her many recordings, you know what I mean. "Pet" hasn't the greatest singing voice in business, but with it she builds an excitement that won't quit.
Actually this engagement at Caesars Palace, which runs through Aug. 6, after which Miss Clark will be followed by another Britisher of note, Anthony Newley, is only her fourth nightclub appearance in the United States. Finian's Rainbow and Goodbye, Mr. Chips kept the diminutive singer-actress busy for two years.
"I found I couldn't do anything else when I was making those pictures," she told me. "Except, of course, a command performance in London—-a must. I don't believe I want to do another marathon film which can tie me down. Three months is enough to spend before movie cameras at one stretch, because I love to work before live audiences and then there's always recording work, too."
Miss Clark continued: "Don't ask me about dates or money or commitments." Then she relented a bit and revealed that she's very interested in a film script written by Rod McKuen based on his poem 'Stanyan Street.' "It would be sort of dramatic," she explained, "with songs and poetry of course."
Commitment at Harrah's
After Miss Clark completes her engagement at Caesars she'll fulfill a commitment at Harrah's in Northern California, then record in Hollywood. "After that, we'll see," she said. "Of course we'll take our two children, Kate, 6, and Barbara, 7, back to school in Geneva, Switzerland, where we live, in the fall."
Wearing a striking blue crepe dress and brocade coat (she shed the outer garment after a number or two), Miss Clark opened her show with a swinging "This Girl's in Love with You." She sang Tony Hatch's "l Know a Place," and "Don't Sleep in the Subway," the Lennon and McCartney "Fool on the Hill"; "You and I," her new Warner single from Goodbye, Mr. Chips (Leslie Bricusse), a special material number, "My Name Is Petula," in German, Italian, French and English; "Yesterday"; a medley of My Fair Lady songs; "Hey Jude" and, of course, the rocking "Downtown," which first brought her to the attention of U.S. record buyers. Miss Clark also scored with Charlie Chaplin's "This is My Song." Frank Owens conducted the orchestra.
George Kirby, talented storyteller, singer, pianist and dialectician, preceded Miss Clark to the stage in a rousing display of his many talents. His jolly demeanor and solid comedy material brought heavy applause.