Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Broadway star graces valley

Symphony gala to host Bernadette Peters

Express Staff Writer

Bernadette Peters

There have been, through the ages, queens of their chosen professions. Think Katharine Graham and publishing, Estée Lauder and cosmetics, Georgia O'Keefe and painting. There is one woman who's been that queen for so long, it's hard to remember who actually preceded her. Bernadette Peters, she of the gamine face, bee-stung lips, squeaky speaking voice and spectacular head of locks, is a true star of the boards. When a show calls for a belter who can truly act, Peters is the first name on the list. Stephen Sondheim, the reigning genius of New York theatre, frequently composes specifically for her unique talents.

The Sun Valley Summer Symphony starts each season with a spectacular musical gala benefit. In 2005, the featured performer was fellow Broadway player Audra McDonald. A consummate performer, Peters brings with her decades of stage experience and true superstar clout.

This year the Symphony's gala event will feature Music Director Alasdair Neale and Guest Pops Conductor Erich Kunzel and will conclude with an electrifying reprise of Broadway hits performed by Peters, with Marvin Laird conducting. In this case, Broadway is truly coming to Sun Valley.

Many people may only be familiar with Peters' roles in many TV shows, and movies such as "Pennies From Heaven," "Annie," "The Jerk," "Alice," "Slaves of New York" and the wonderful little known gem, "Impromptu," among others.

However, it is her starring roles on the stage that have singled her out as one of the great musical theater stars on Broadway. Her roles have included Sondheim musicals, "Sunday in the Park with George" and "Into the Woods." She won Tony Awards for her performances in "Song & Dance" and the 1999 revival of "Annie Get Your Gun." In 2003, she received her third Tony Award nomination for her electrifying portrayal of Mama Rose in Sam Mendes' record-breaking Broadway revival of "Gypsy."

She counts among her many CDs the Grammy-nominated "Bernadette Peters Loves Rodgers & Hammerstein," "Sondheim, Etc.," "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" and "Anyone Can Whistle."

Peters, who lives in New York and Los Angeles, has performed at Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center and the Royal Festival Hall in London, among others.

Peters was born in the Bronx, was educated at the Quintano School for Young Professionals in Manhattan and got her professional start as a child in the 1959 City Center revival of "Most Happy Fella," when she was 11-years-old. Following that she toured as Baby June in a tour of "Gypsy." After appearing Off-Broadway in "The Penny Friend" (1966) and "Curley McDimple" (1967), she made her Broadway debut as Josie Cohan in "George M!" (1968). Peters won critical acclaim as Ruby in the Off-Broadway spoof, "Dames at Sea" (1968). She also won a Golden Globe for her performance in the musical spoof, "Pennies From Heaven" (1981).

Aside from her all-consuming career, her pet project is Broadway Barks, an animal rescue organization she founded with her friend, Mary Tyler Moore. Each year the two host a star-studded event on Broadway's Shubert Alley to promote animal adoption.

'An Evening with Bernadette'

The Sun Valley Summer Symphony presents "An Evening with Bernadette," 6-8 p.m. Sunday, July 30. Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres will be served at 5 p.m. Premier seats are $500 each and general seats are $250. Seats in each section are assigned in the order in which checks are cleared or credit card transactions are confirmed. Reserve now at or call 622-5607.

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