By Deborah Wilker
City & Shore Magazine
Into the Woods, yes. Into the real woods? Forget it, Bernadette Peters says of the Woodstock era.
“Get me a nice bedroom with a bathroom,” she says. “I am not a camper!”
While rock icons Grace Slick and Janis Joplin were storming through the ’60s, redefining what women with big voices could do on stage, Peters was also coming of age, tap dancing in musicals such as Dames at Sea, enamored with a more innocent time.
“Oh I loved the music and I loved Janis,” Peters says of the counterculture sound now safely defined as classic rock. “But the lifestyle wasn’t for me. I grew up on the movies of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. I was always sort of from a different era.
“And then I had these opportunities to do what I enjoyed on Broadway, so I just continued,” she says of the jobs that kept coming her way.
Film and TV roles, more Broadway shows – such as Mack and Mabel and Sunday in the Park with George – Carnegie Hall, concerts worldwide, a major record deal and Tony awards all followed. Five decades later Peters is regarded as one of the world’s finest musical theater performers, and the premier interpreter of the work of Stephen Sondheim.
She was top honoree at The Drama League’s annual gala last November in New York. She is also a co-star of the acclaimed Amazon Studios series Mozart in the Jungle, about New York’s classical music scene. And she continues with ongoing concert appearances, including a show April 7 at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.
Speaking from her rooftop terrace on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Peters, now 68, says she can never get enough of her Hudson River view and her dogs (she is a well-known advocate for shelter animals), and so she does not like to stay away from home too long.
“I like to go out, just do one and come home,” she says of her concerts. She does not travel lightly to these gigs, touring with lighting, sound equipment, a road manager, pianist and drummer. “I have high overhead,” she says. “But it’s a very nice-looking show.”
Taking a week or two or three off between dates is not a worry. She says she steps right back on stage, without rehearsal.
“Because it’s so in me. It’s my show that I know very well. And it’s Sondheim and Rodgers and Hammerstein and its dramatic and fun. I like going back and reminding myself of certain sentiments particularly on songs like No One Is Alone and Children Will Listen. It’s a privilege to be able to do it.”
Last on Broadway in the 2011 revival of Sondheim’s Follies, Peters is not sure whether her next Broadway run will be a straight play or a musical. Whatever it may be she won’t “chase it,” preferring she says to let opportunities flow toward her.
“Every time I have tried to go after something,” she says, “it’s like uh-uh, no, that’s not how it works for you.”
IF YOU GO
Bernadette Peters performs 8 p.m. April 7 at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, West Palm Beach. Tickets at kravis.org, 561-832-7469 or 800-572-8471.