Peters (Lazzara), Bernadette

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Peters (Lazzara), Bernadette

Peters (Lazzara), Bernadette, star of stage, screen, and even one hit record; b. Queens, N.Y., Feb. 28, 1948. By the time Bernadette Lazzara was five years old, she was on TV, appearing on the Horn and Hardart Children’s Hour, imitating Sophie Tucker. By nine, she was a member of Actors Equity, performing in The Most Happy Fella. She toured in Gypsy as a teenager, and appeared Off-Broadway regularly from the age of 17 on. In 1967, she made her Broadway debut in The Girl in the Freudian Slip, then played Josie Cohan in the musical George M, starring Joel Grey. In 1968, she was proclaimed a star by reviewers of the Off-Broadway production of Dames at Sea. Despite this success, her next two leading roles on Broadway in 1969 and 1970 closed on their first night. She earned a Tony nomination for her work in the 1971 revival of On the Town and another one for her performance in Mack and Mabel in 1974. Leaving Broadway for a while in the mid-1970s, she moved to Hollywood and started making films, including The Jerk and Pennies from Heaven, with Steve Martin, and Mel Brooks’s Silent Movie.

Peters also explored a mainstream singing career. In 1980, she cut Bernadette Peters, going to #31 with her version of Carla Thomas’s “Gee Whiz” her only pop hit. By 1984, she was back on Broadway in Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. She won a Tony Award for her demanding role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1985 play Song and Dance, which featured Peters alone onstage for the entire first act. She was given star billing in a supporting role in Sondheim’s 1987 musical Into the Woods. Back in Hollywood for the early part of the 1990s, she took on mostly dramatic roles, though she also provided the voice for Rita the Cat in the cartoon series Animaniacs. She returned to Broadway for the ill-fated musical version of Neil Simon’s The Goodbye Girl in 1993, and started making concert appearances. In 1997, she gave voice to Sophie in the animated feature Anastasia. From 1999 through 2000, she appeared as Annie Oakley in the successful Broadway revival of Annie Get Your Gun. The performance won her another Tony Award.

Discography

Dames at Sea: Original Cast Recording (1969); Bernadette Peters (1980); Now Playing (1981); Bernadette (1992); Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Song and Dance (1995); I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight (1996); Sondheim, Etc. (1997).

—Helander Brock

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Peters (Lazzara), Bernadette

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