When it comes to charisma, some performers have got it, some don't and some fake it. Faking it is really quite simple -- song introductions, witty asides choreography and weighty vocals are memorized and then replayed before the crowd.The results are ersatz emotion and preprogrammed excitement.

Singer Helen Reddy's performance last night at Wolf Trap had all the spontaneity of a close-order drill. She strutted about the stage during instrumental breaks, snapped her fingers to the beat and between songs, uttered her lines/with the skill of an accomplished actress. It was all very polished and very predictable.

Her singing had a similar effect. She covered a variety of styles, from country, to rock and mainstream pop, yet all were reduced to a kind of mind-numbing mush. Willie Nelson's "On the Again" was interspersed with several stale "yee hah's," and her new single, "I Can't Say Goodbye to You" threatened to grind to a halt. Even her "theme song," that foppish bit of feminist fiddle-faddle, "I Am Woman," was given a forced reading, as though Reddy had perhaps lost interest in the cause.

Helen Reddy is excitement in the extreme -- regrettably, the wrong extreme.