Bernadette Peters

Discusses Pittsburgh, Publishing, and Pit Bulls.

She’s been silent film star Mabel Normand, the Witch out of fairy tales, gun slinger Annie Oakley and uber-stage mother Mama Rose.

She is Broadway legend Bernadette Peters, and she will be appearing live at the Carnegie Music Hall on February 22 at the Equality Gala benefitting the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh.

This won’t be Peters’ first Pittsburgh appearance, but it’s the first in a long time.  Her last stop here was when she was only fifteen-years-old in a tour of the musical Gypsy starring Betty Hutton as Mama Rose. Peters has fond memories performing under the stars at the Civic Arena, CLO’s home at the time.

In 2003, Peters would have her turn to play Mama Rose when Gypsy was revived on Broadway.  It garnered the diva a Tony Award nomination.

And speaking of Tony nominations, Peters has seven, winning the coveted awards three times.

The first was in 1985 for Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Song and Dance.  The show follows the romantic misadventures of a British woman named Emma.  The first half of the musical is sung; the second half is danced.  Of her performance, New York Times critic Frank Rich wrote that Peters “has no peer in the musical theatre right now.”

She won the Tony again in 1999 for the revival of Annie Get Your Gun. For that performance, Playbill said of her, “Arguably the most talented comedienne in the musical theatre today.”

In 2012 Peters was presented with a special Tony (the honorary Isabelle Stevenson Award) for “making a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations, regardless of whether such organizations relate to the theatre.”

That charity work includes her tireless efforts Broadway Cares: Equity Fights AIDS, serving on its Board and participating in many of their events, such as the annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction and the “Gypsy of the Year” competition.  Peters has also raised funds for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. When asked why she has such a huge following in the LGBT community, Peters responded, “I think it’s because I sing about important emotions and the gay community responds to that.”

Another cause close to her heart is the plight of sheltered animals.  Always an animal lover, this charitable journey began when her dog died, and she went to the shelter to find a new pet.

“I was amazed at the over-crowding and the number of dogs who needed adopting. All kinds of dogs—purebreds, big dogs, little dogs—all who needed attention.”

Along with her pal Mary Tyler Moore, Peters founded Broadway Barks, an annual animal adopt-a-thon held in New York City. 

“People need to understand that there’s nothing wrong with these dogs.”  She continued, “So many of them end up in shelters for economic reasons. The owner can’t afford to care for the pet any more or has gotten ill or died.  Some animals end up in shelters because of natural disasters, like Hurricane Sandy.”

Her work with shelter animals has led to a new career for Peters—children’s book author.  She was asked to write a book to raise funds, and the result was Broadway Barks, a book that tells the story of a little dog named Kramer (named for her own pup).  She also wrote a lullaby called “Kramer’s Song” which is included on a CD with the book.  The idea for the song came to her while on a plane. 

“I seem to get my best inspiration on planes,” Peters said.

In 2010 a second book Stella Is A Star, named for her pit bull, was released.  It is also accompanied by a CD of an original Peters song as well.

Based on the popularity of Broadway Barks and Stella Is A Star, a third book is in the work.

Many theatergoers consider Peters to be the definitive interpreter of the works of Stephen Sondheim.  Understandable as she has starred in Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George as well as revivals of A Little Night Music and Follies. 

When asked about performing Sondheim, she said, “I do love to sing his music and lyrics.  He knows what he wants to say and how to say it. A quarter note is a quarter note for a reason.”

She added, “Stephen writes about such interesting subjects.  And whether he’s writing about passion or anger, there’s always a complete thought process.”

But Peters is quick to admit she does not have one particular favorite song.  “I pick songs that I seem to have a connection with—sentiments I like to be reminded of like ‘Children Will Listen’ from “Into the Woods.”

She confessed, “But that’s what I love about doing concerts.  I have my choice of ALL the songs”

So what can Pittsburghers expect from her upcoming concert? 

“I want us all to be there and be entertained and share the experience—funny or serious—all under one roof.”

Bernadette Peters has done it all.  She has conquered Broadway, winning Tony and Drama Desk Awards along the way.  She’s been nominated for Grammys, Emmys and Golden Globes.  She has done films like Pennies from Heaven and Silent Movie.  She’s appeared on television shows from Will & Grace to The Muppet Show to Boston Legal, Law & Order SVU and, most recently Smash.  She’s recorded six solo albums and written books.  She has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and is the youngest person ever inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

Is there anything left to do?

When asked about her plans for the future, she said, “I want to do more for Broadway Cares and more for animals.  I want to give where it’s needed…and to make people understand what it’s like to be in need.”

Whether performing or raising awareness, Peters sums it up best when she says, “I am very understanding.”

Her talent is to be envied; her compassion, admired.

The Equality Gala with Bernadette Peters will be held on Saturday, February 22 at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland.  Tickets are $250 (includes cocktails, dinner, preferred seating at the performance, dessert and dancing or $75 (performance, dessert and dancing).  To order tickets, visit deltafoundation.us/tickets or call 888-71-TICKETS.  For more information, call 412-322-2800.

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