On the record with Bernadette Peters


Second annual Symphony Gala with Bernadette Peters
Feb. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets start at $35
Woodruff Arts Center
1280 Peachtree St.
Atlanta  GA 30309
 (404) 733-4864

Her experience playing with the symphony in the past has been amazing, she notes. 

“I always have a nice time; the symphony is able to make such great music,” she says. “It’s great to hear the orchestrations. There is no fourth wall – the audience is right there.”

Peters expects to perform her celebrated number “Losing My Mind” from “Follies,” Peggy Lee’s “Fever” on the piano and more.

She has pleasant memories of her time here at other events. Peters admits she doesn’t see much outside of her hotel and the performing venue on these type of gigs, but she does hope to go to the zoo here, which she did on her last visit as well.

A few weeks ago, Peters finished a celebrated turn on Broadway in Stephen Sondheim’s 1971’s “Follies,” teaming her with a seasoned, large cast including Elaine Page.  The revival started in Washington, D.C’s Kennedy Center for what was to be a short run but its cast and producers were able to bring it to New York late last summer.  She acknowledges it was “an amazing production,” claiming it’s not often that 28 performers and a full orchestra can come together on a project.

She will be seen soon in the new gay-themed NBC series “Smash” as the mother to performer Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty).

”I play a character who is a musical star of note; people know her when she comes into a room,” Peters says. “(She and her daughter) have an interesting relationship – I work all the time and the two don’t see each other much, but somehow you realize they love each other.”

For now, it’s a one-time gig, but Peters says if the show gets picked up for a full season, she’d be receptive to more.

When approached, Peters was impressed by the show’s writing and enthusiastically agreed to appear. Quality writing also beckoned her to a recurring role on the sitcom “Ugly Betty.” Working with the likes of Michael Urie and America Ferrera was “great fun,” she says.

Peters is certainly aware of her large LGBT following. Why do the gays love her?

“Well, they have good taste,” she laughs. 

She realizes that she sings a lot of music that gay men listen and respond to, including Sondheim.  

“I think everyone feels different someplace,“ she says. “I think gays have strong emotions. They feel so many emotions, especially growing up. They have such sensitivity. I think when I perform it takes people on a journey. They know and recognize truth when people are performing.”  

As Peters’ career was growing, she became quickly aware of her following and noticed that lots of gay men gravitated to her work. She is an advocate of same-sex marriage too and looks forward to the time when people “don’t have to hide.”

Peters’ theater career is almost unparalleled. She has won two Tony Awards and been nominated five more times. Broadway highlights include “Annie Get Your Gun,”

“Dames at Sea,” “Into the Woods” and an acclaimed turn as Rose in “Gypsy.”  When she takes on iconic roles like that, sometimes she says to herself, “What do you play next?”

In 2010 she appeared on Broadway in the cast of “A Little Night Music” with another legend, Elaine Stritch, then it was on to “Follies.”  Getting to play Sally in “Follies” was another “What next?” moment for her, she acknowledges.

Peters is very much involved with charity work and started Broadway Barks  – an annual New York event which encourages animal adoption – with her good friend Mary Tyler Moore. She also supports AIDS-themed charities. In 2009, for instance, she performed a concert for Broadway Barks and Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS.

The performer is not partial only to the theater — since she has done TV and film as well — but she admits it is where she has found much of her success.  She has not lined up any plans for the next few months and mentions that she is looking forward to some down time in the very near future.

“I told my agent to let me rest for a while,” she admits.