With her dancing talent, flexible voice, and Kewpiedoll looks, singer and actress Bernadette Peters has become a premier performer of the musical stage. Groomed for show business from an early age, she took the theater world by storm when barely 20 years old, playing a small-town chorus girl who dances her way to stardom in a spoof of 1930s musicals titled Dames at Sea. Adept at mimicking the performing styles and stars of past show business eras, Peters has often been cast in nostalgia vehicles, captivating audiences as man-hungry Hildy in the wartime musical On the Town and as silent film comedienne Mabel Normand in Mack and Mabel. Even when the shows she appears in flop, her portrayals are frequently hailed as “adorable.”
Adapting her talents to television, motion pictures, nightclub entertaining, and solo recording, Peters has since demonstrated that beyond her flare for the camp and the cute lies a performer of great versatility and depth; “[She] is perhaps,” remarked Peter Reilly in Stereo Review, “the finest singing actress since [Barbra] Streisand.” Critiquing the entertainer’s first solo album, a mix of old and new songs titled Bernadette Peters, the reviewer found “no camp here … no coy inflections, and … no attempt to imitate” and noted “how sensationally good Peters can be when she’s expressing no point of view at all, just the emotion of the moment.”
Further commending Peters’s varied talents, News-week’s Jack Boll described her Tony Award-winning performance as an unlucky-in-love English hat designer in Song and Dance: “Her 20 songs become 20 scenes and 20 moods, creating a real character out of materials that might have seemed all too banal in other hands.” “Every emotion is clear and true,” concluded the critic. “[Peters] is now the most versatile and affecting actress in the American musical theater.”
Born Bernadette Lazzara, Peters was the youngest child of an Italian-American truck driver and his wife Marguerite, who had an ardent interest in the world of show business. By age three Bernadette was studying tap dancing and singing, and by five she was a regular performer on television’s Horn and Hardart Children’s Hour. Her surname was changed to Peters when she was very young to discourage ethnic typecasting, and she soon began appearing in local stage shows, landing her first major role at age 13 as Baby June in a road company production of Gypsy. She continued her show business training while a student at Quitano’s School for Young Professionals in New York City, rushing home each day to catch the 4:30 movie on television. “I got to
For the Record…
Born Bernadette Lazzara, February 28, 1948, in Ozone Park, Queens, NY; daughter of Peter (a bread truck driver) and Marguerite (a homemaker; maiden name, Maltese) Lazzara. Education: Graduated from Quitano’s School for Young Professionals in 1966; studied acting with David LeGrant, tap dancing with Oliver McCool III, and voice with Jim Gregory.
Made professional debut at age five as regular on television program Horn and Hardart Children’s Hour; made stage debut in The Most Happy Fella, 1959; stage appearances include The Penny Friend, 1966, Curly McDimple, 1966, Johnny No-Trump, 1967, George M!, 1968, Dames at Sea, 1968, La Strada, 1969, W. C, 1971, On the Town, 1971, Tartuffe, 1972, Mack and Mabel, 1974, Sally and Marsha, 1982, Sunday in the Park With George, 1984, Song and Dance, 1985, and Into the Woods, 1987; motion picture appearances include The Longest Yard, 1974, Silent Movie, 1976, Vigilante Force, 1976, W. C. Fields and Me, 1976, The Jerk, 1979, Pennies From Heaven, 1981, Heartbeeps, 1981, Annie, 1982, Pink Cadillac, 1989, Slaves of New York, 1989, Alice, 1991, and Impromptu, 1991; television appearances include specials Carol Burnett Show and Fall From Grace, 1990, series All’s Fair, 1976-77, and films David, 1988, and The Last Best Year, 1990.
Awards: Theater World citation, 1968, for George M!; Drama Desk Award, 1968, for Dames at Sea; Tony Award nominations, 1971, for On the Town, 1974, for Mack and Mabel, and 1985, for Sunday in the Park With George; Golden Globe Award for best actress, 1981, for Pennies From Heaven; Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, and Drama League Award, all 1986, all for Song and Dance.
Addresses: Agent —c/o Richard Grant & Associates, 8500 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 520, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.
see all the great old pictures,” she recalled to Reilly. “I developed a real love for Ruby Keeler and Rita Hayworth and Marty Martin, just the way they’d stand or look at people or dance. I have a photographic mind, and I remember exactly how they were sometimes when I sing.”
Fortunately for Peters—and unlike many child performers—her own career desires meshed with her mother’s unbridled ambitions for her. After her 1966 graduation from high school, she appeared in a few disappointing off-Broadway productions, until a minor role in Broadway’s George M! brought her acclaim. Next, the saucer-eyed, warble-voiced Peters was fittingly cast as Ruby in Dames at Sea, and her witty portrayal earned her a Drama Desk Award. Capturing the outrageous spirit of old Busby Berkeley musicals, Peters’s gift for imitation determined her success for the next few years. Though they earned mixed reviews, a 1971 revival of On the Town and 1974’s Mack and Mabel brought the actress Tony Award nominations. In her quest for challenging stage roles, Peters also performed in less typical productions that showcased her versatility, including Tartuffe and a musical version of La Strada.
Looking to Hollywood in the early 1970s, Peters hoped to expand her opportunities for important parts. Her stage success, however, had little effect on the roles she obtained, which were usually limited to secondary characters in films like W. C. Fields and Me, Vigilante Force, and The Jerk. But the musical Pennies From Heaven found the entertainer in a starring role as a Depression-era school teacher-turned-prostitute who escapes the harsh realities of her existence by imagining herself in production numbers and songs of the day. A box office failure, the motion picture nonetheless won Peters a Golden Globe Award for best actress.
Peters’s forays into television were a bit more successful, featuring variety guest spots and play performances. In 1976 she even costarred in the comedy series All’s Fair, playing a liberal photographer in love with a conservative newspaperman. While it received positive reviews, the show failed to attract viewers and was canceled at the end of its first season.
After a nearly decade-long absence, Peters returned to the New York stage in 1982 in the unlikely role of a frumpy South Dakota housewife in Sally and Marsha. Critics found her performance accomplished and mature and felt Peters exhibited a new sincerity and directness that was evident in her next project, the unconventional Stephen Sondheim musical Sunday in the Park With George. Playing the model and mistress of pointillist painter George Seurat, Peters received rave reviews and won a third Tony Award nomination.
In the early 1980s the entertainer became a solo recording artist, delivering an eclectic mix of popular songs ranging from tunes by Fats Waller to Elvis Presley to Marvin Hamlisch. In the New York Daily News Bill Carlton declared that Peters “has perfect pipes for pop, a very supple, wide-ranging pitch that often surprises the listener with sudden delightful twists and leaps.” And a People reviewer observed, “She has carved out quite a cozy and entertaining niche for herself as a pop music archivist.” Peters pointed out to Reilly that she doesn’t “sing old songs just because they’re old.” “I’m an actress. I have to find a reason to say those words,” she explained. “They have to be ‘I’ songs with a hook, something that relates to the heart.”
Cast in another Stephen Sondheim musical in 1987, Peters played the Witch in the acclaimed Into the Woods, featuring characters from such popular fairy tales as Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk. “As the Witch,” remarked Jack Kroll in Time, “Bernadette Peters does wonders with the trickiest … part.” In addition to a nine-city musical tour with composer Peter Allen in the late 1980s, Peters also appeared in several motion pictures, including starring roles in two 1989 films, Slaves of New York and Pink Cadillac, and a part in 1991’s Impromptu. Though reviewers from both Time and Newsweek found little to praise in Slaves of New York and Pink Cadillac, both magazines pointed out the actress’s irresistible charm, one of the main reasons for Peters’s continued success both on and off the stage.
(With others) Dames at Sea (original cast recording), Columbia.
(With others) Mack and Mabel (original cast recording), ABC.
Bernadette Peters, MCA, 1980.
Now Playing, MCA, 1981.
(With others) Sunday in the Park With George: Original Broadway Cast Recording, RCA, 1984.
(With others) A Collector’s Sondheim, RCA, 1985.
The Songs From Song and Dance, RCA, 1986.
Esquire, January 1982.
High Fidelity, November 1984.
Horizon, January/February, 1988.
Los Angeles Times, July 12, 1989.
Maclean’s, April 10, 1989; June 5, 1989.
New Republic, April 10, 1989.
Newsweek, September 30, 1985; November 16, 1987; March 20, 1989; June 12, 1989.
New York Daily News, September 7, 1981.
People, June 2, 1980; October 19, 1981; March 29, 1982; April 10, 1989; April 24, 1989; June 12, 1989; April 29, 1991.
Rolling Stone, April 18, 1991.
Stereo Review, August 1980; December 1981.
Time, November 16, 1987; March 20, 1989; June 5, 1989.
Singer, actress, dancer
With her cherubic face, saucer-like eyes, full, pouty lips, and springy mass of curly red hair, Bernadette Peters is one of the most recognizable actors on stage and screen. Her energetic performances add zest and vitality to virtually all of the projects in which she appears, from children’s shows to zany movies to her best-known vehicles, Broadway musicals. Peters got her start as a child actor on television shows and in plays, and by the late 1960s, had begun raking in theater awards and nominations for several productions. In the 1970s, she ventured into television and film, earning accolades for her work on The Muppet Show and standing out as a comic force in films like Silent Movie and The Jerk. Returning to the stage in the early 1980s, she became a standard in Stephen Sondheim musicals, but earned her first Tony for the Andrew Lloyd Weber production Song and Dance. In 1999, she was the darling of Broadway when she amassed three important awards, including anotherTony, for her work in the musical Annie Get Your Gun.
Peters was born Bernadette Lazzara on February 28, 1948, in the Queens borough of New York City and grew up in the Ozone Park area. She was the youngest child of Peterand Marguerite Lazzara. Herfather, Peter, drove a bread truck, and her mother was a homemaker, but had a keen interest in show business and urged her daughter to perform. By age three-and-a-half, Peters was taking singing and tap dancing lessons, and soon began making appearances on television. She started out on The Horn & Hardart Children’s Hourand also appeared on The Juvenile Jury and Name That Tune. At age ten, her Italian American surname was changed to prevent her from being typecast; her father’s first name became the source of her stage name.
Even before she was in her teens, Peters was landing roles in stage productions such as This is Google, directed by the legendary Otto Preminger, as well as The Most Happy Fella and The Penny Friend. At age 13, she was cast as Baby June in a touring company of Gypsy. During her high school years, she backed off from her career temporarily and attended private school, Quintano’s School for Young Professionals in Manhattan, graduating in 1966. In the meantime, she studied acting with David Le Grant, tap dancing with Oliver McCool III, and singing with Jim Gregory.
After graduation, Peters performed in some off-Broadway shows, then landed her Broadway debut in 1967 in Johnny No-Trump. The following year, she garnered acclaim when she starred with Joel Gray in the musical
For the Record…
Born Bernadette Lazzara, February 28, 1948, in Queens, NY; daughter of Peter (a truck driver) and Marguerite (a homemaker; maiden name, Maltese) Lazzara; married Michael Wittenberg (an investment adviser), July 20, 1996. Education: Attended Quintano’s School for Young Professionals, New York City; studied acting with David Le Grant, tap dancing with Oliver McCool III, and singing with Jim Gregory.
Actor, singer, and dancer. Stage appearances include The Most Happy Fella, 1959; The Penny Friend, 1966-67; Johnny No-Trump, 1967; Curley McDimple, 1967-68; George Ml, 1968; Dames at Sea, 1968-69; On the Town, 1971-72; Mack and Mabel, 1974; Sunday in the Park with George, 1983, 1984-85; Song and Dance, 1985-86; Into the Woods, 1987-89; Goodbye Girl, 1993; and Annie Get Your Gun, 1999. Also toured with Gypsy, 1961-62, and IV.C., 1971, and appeared in This Is Google, 1962; and Riuerwind, 1966.Television appearances include episodes of Maude, 1972, 1975; All in the Family, 1971, 1975, Loue, American Style, 1973; McCoy, 1976; and The Closer, 1998; series The Carol Burnett Show, 1970s and 1991; miniseries The Martian Chronicles, 1980; and The Odyssey, 1997; and movies Paradise Lost, 1974; An American Portrait, 1984; The Last Best Year, 1990; The Last Mile, 1992; and Holiday in your Heart, 1997. Film appearances include The Longest Yard, 1974; Silent Movie, 1976; IV. C. Fields and Me, 1976; The Jerk, 1979; Heartbeeps, 1981; Pennies from Heaven, 1981; Annie, 1982; Slaves of New York, 1989; Pink Cadillac, 1989; Alice, 1990; Impromptu, 1991; and Snow Days, 1999.
Awards: Golden Globe Award for best film actress in a musical/comedy, 1981, for Pennies from Heaven; Antoinette Perry (“Tony”) Award for best actress in a musical, 1986, for Song and Dance; Distinguished Performance Award, Drama League of New York, 1986; Outer Critics Circle Award for outstanding actress in a musical, and Tony Award for best actress in a musical, all 1999, for Annie Get Your Gun; Sarah Siddons Actress of the Year Award; youngest person inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.
Addresses: Home —New York City. Agent —Jeff Hunter, William Morris Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019.
George M! For the role of Josie Cohan, she earned a Theatre World Award. Also in 1968, she brought in a Drama Desk Award for the humorous off-Broadway hit Dames at Sea, in which she played Ruby. Some subsequent plays, including an adaptation of Federico Fellini’s La Strada, were not well-reviewed, but Peters was often singled out for praise. For example, reception was mixed regarding a 1971 revival of On the Town and 1974’s Mack and Mabel, but Peters was nominated for Tony Awards for both.
By the early 1970s, Peters began trying her hand in Hollywood, but although she was a star on the stage, she was relegated mainly to supporting parts in film. Her screen debut came in theobscure 1973 movie Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies, then she played a secretary in the football film The Longest Yard, 1974, starring Burt Reynolds. Later, she demonstrated her comedic talent in the Mel Brooks slapstick spoof Silent Movie, 1976, and the romp The Jerk, 1979, written by and starring Steve Martin. Although The Jerk was widely panned by critics for its lowbrow humor, Peters received kinder notices for her role as the cosmetologist girlfriend of Navin Johnson (Martin), a goof ball who becomes wealthy off of a simple invention. Martin was romantically involved with Peters off-screen during this time as well and had written the part specifically for her.
Peters and Martin teamed up again in 1981’s Pennies from Heaven, an unusual musical about a schoolteacher during the Depression who is seduced, then dumped, by an out-of-work salesman (Martin); she subsequently has an abortion and becomes a prostitute. Attempting to deal with her bleak situation, she imagines herself in a series of fanciful musical numbers. Based on a successful British television miniseries, Pennies from Heaven received mixed reviews, but Peters was hailed for her role as the teacher and won a 1981 Golden Globe. She also starred that year in the dismal Heartbeeps, about a lovestruck robot who falls for another and roid (played by Andy Kaufman). Afterward, in 1982 she worked with Carol Burnett in a film version of Annie. She was also cast as the lead character in the movie version of the Tama Janowitz novel Slaves of New York, as a New York bohemian who develops self-confidence upon finding success at making and selling quirky hats. In 1990, Peters played the Muse in the Woody Allen film Alice, starring Mia Farrow, and the next year, worked with Hugh Grant, Judy Davis, and Mandy Patinkin in Impromptu, a romantic comedy about composer Frederic Chopin.
In addition to making films, Peters was busy during the 1970s with television appearances. She was nominated foran Emmy Award for her work on the lovable children’s variety program The Muppet Show, and was also a regular on The Carol Burnett Show. In 1976 she took a part in the series All’s Fair, about a liberal photographer in love with a conservative journalist; though the series was critically liked, it did not catch on with audiences and was canceled after one season. Peters has also made a number of television movies, including David, 1988, and The Last Best Year, 1990, with Mary Tyler Moore. In addition Peters provides the voice of Rita the Cat on Steven Spielberg’s popular cartoon program TheAnimaniacs. She also starred in Terrence McNally’s The Last Mile, 1992, for the Great Performances series on PBS, and played the stepmother in Cinderella, 1997, one of the highest-rated television movies of that year.
After being away from the theater for nearly ten years, Peters returned to Broadway in 1982. Moving completely into new territory, she portrayed a frumpy homemaker from South Dakota in Sally and Marsha, and critics applauded her performance for showing a new depth. She carried this over to the Stephen Sondheim production Sunday in the Park with George (which won a Pulitzer Prize), playing the mistress and model of pointillist painter George Seurat. This brought her a third Tony Award nomination. Peters was also nominated for a Drama Desk award for her role as the Witch in Sondheim’s Into the Woods, 1987. Finally in 1986, Peters nabbed her first Tony Award, as well as her second Drama Desk Award, for her sparkling performance in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical Song and Dance. Also in 1986, she was honored with the Drama League of New York’s Distinguished Performance Award. Peters also received the Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year Award in 1987 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Shewas also the youngest person to be inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame.
In the early 1990s, Peters took a hiatus from Broadway for a few years to concentrate on recording albums and giving concerts. Her first self-titled solo release came out in 1980 and featured a conglomeration of cover tunes by a range of artists such as Elvis Presley, Marvin Hamlisch, and Fats Waller. The next year, she released another disc, Now Playing. In 1996, Peters was nominated for a Grammy Award for the best-selling I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, which is a cornucopia of popular songs from composers including John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Lyle Lovett, Hank William, Sam Cooke, and Billy Joel. Of course, it also contains many Broadway classics by Leonard Bernstein, Rogers and Hammerstein, and others.
When Peters puts an album together, she chooses a surprising mix of material based on whether she feels a connection to the songs. As she noted to Jon Bream in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “The connection can be from anywhere. It can be from something spiritual or something uplifting or something dramatic, funny, just a witty song.” In April of 1996, Peters performed at the White House for President Bill Clinton, and also sang and provided a voice-over for the animated film Anastasia, 1997. Her fourth solo work, Live at Carnegie Hall, came out in 1999. Peters’s voice can also be heard on cast recordings of various musicals, including Dames at Sea, Mack and Mabel, and Sunday in the Park with George.
In 1999, Peters had a blowout year starring in a revival of the 1946 Irving Berlin hit Annie Get Your Gun, which first opened for a pre-Broadway run on December 29, 1998, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. In a role made famous by the big-boned, booming-voiced Ethel Merman as the bawdy Wild West sharpshooter Annie Oakley, many were skeptical that the petite, squeaky-voiced Peters could pull it off. After all, the number “There’s No Business like Show Business” was a signature Merman tune throughout her career. Peters, in fact, had doubts as well. Not only was she reluctant to do a revival, she was also initially concerned about some of the politically incorrect references to women and American Indians. However, her fears were put to rest when she discovered that the writer was committed to doing a revision of the original.
As a result of the script changes, the character of Annie is more self-directed, and her lover, Frank Butler (played by former Dukes of Hazzard star Tom Wopat), is more sensitive. Though she still purposely misses her shots to make her man feel better, it is Annie’s own choice, and Frank’s response helps even the balance of power in the relationship. As Pacheco observed in Newsday, “Loving compromise, not female sacrifice, is what finally unites the two.” This updated text was imbued with irony to make it more palatable, and in the eyes of most fans and critics, it worked. Though some reviewers found fault with nuances, such as the stereotypical Indian dialogue orthe contradictions in Annie’s pseudo-feminist character, most considered the show a success and were especially please with Peters’s talent. For Annie Get Your Gun, she won a Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award as well as her second Tony for best actress in a musical, and the play itself earned a 1999 Tony Award for best revival of a musical.
On July 20, 1996, Peters married for the first time, to investment advisor Michael Wittenberg. The ceremony was performed at the home of Mary Tyler Moore in Millbrook, New York. They met serendipitously, as she recalled to David Patrick Stearns in USA Today: “I was just standing in front of my (apartment) building waiting for somebody and he walked by. He was wearing a tuxedo and I was all dressed up and he said, ‘Well, are you ready to go?’” The two reside in New York City. Peters considers herself a “late bloomer” in both her love life and her career, as she remarked to Patrick Pacheco in Newsday, adding, “I guess I’ve been blooming all along, but I think I’m really just beginning to get it right. When I’m considering a role I’m looking for what I may learn from it, and I’ve still got a lot to learn.”
(with others) Dames at Sea, Sony, 1968.
George M!, Columbia, 1969.
Mack and Mabel, Columbia, 1974.
Bernadette Peters, MCA, 1980
Now Playing, MCA, 1981.
Annie, Columbia, 1982.
(with others) Sunday in the Park with George, RCA, 1984.
Song and Dance, RCA, 1986.
Into the Woods, RCA, 1988.
Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall, RCA, 1984.
The Goodbye Girl, Columbia, 1993.
I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, Angel/EMI, 1996.
Sondheim, Etc., Angel/EMI, 1997.
Annie Get Your Gun, Angel, 1999.
Contemporary Musicians, volume 7, Gale Research, 1992.
Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television, volume 10, Gale Research, 1993.
Atlanta Journal and Constitution, October 16, 1998, p. 1; March 5, 1999, p. F2.
Columbian, July 2, 1999.
Dallas Morning News, March 6, 1999, p. 41 A.
Entertainment Weekly, August 9, 1996, p. 12.
In Style, June 1999, p. 218.
Newsday, February 28, 1999, p. D10; March 5, 1999, p. B2.
People, March 29, 1982, p. 70.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 2, 1998, p. 21.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), June 22, 1996, p. 1E.
Time, March 15, 1999, p. 86.
USA Today, January 28, 1999, p. 3D.
USA Today Magazine, May 1999, p. 81.
Variety, March 8, 1999, p. 72.
Bernadette Peters Official Web site, http://www.bernadettepeters.com(October 14, 1999).
”Bernadette Peters,”Internet Movie Database web site, http://us.imdb.com (October 13, 1999).
Peters, Bernadette 1948–
Peters, Bernadette 1948–
Original name, Bernadette Lazzara; born February 28, 1948, in Ozone Park, NY; daughter of Peter (a baker and truck driver) and Marguerite (a homemaker; maiden name, Maltese) Lazzara; married Michael Wittenberg (an investment advisor), July 20, 1996 (died, September 26, 2005). Education: Attended Quintana School for Young Professionals, New York City; studied acting with David Le Grant, tap dancing with Oliver McCool III, and singing with Jim Gregory.
Actress, singer, and dancer. Performed in concert in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, 1961; nightclub entertainer, beginning in the 1970s; appeared in television commercial for Breyer's Ice Cream, 1988.
Actors' Equity Association, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Screen Actors Guild.
Drama Desk Award, outstanding performance, 1968, for Dames at Sea; Theatre World Award, 1968, for George M!; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best supporting actress in a musical play, 1971, for On the Town; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best actress in a Broadway musical, 1974, for Mack and Mabel; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding continuing or single performance by a supporting actress in a variety or music program, 1977, for The Muppet Show; Golden Globe Award nomination, best motion picture actress in a supporting role, 1977, for Silent Movie; Golden Globe Award nomination, best television actress—musical or comedy, 1977, for All's Fair; Best of Las Vegas Award, 1980; Golden Globe Award, best film actress in a musical or comedy, 1981, for Pennies from Heaven; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best actress in a musical, 1984, for Sunday in the Park with George; Drama League Award, outstanding performance of the season, 1985, Antoinette Perry Award and Drama Desk Award, both best actress in a musical, 1986, all for Song and Dance; Distinguished Performance Award, Drama League of New York, 1986; CableACE Award, National Cable Television Association, 1986, for Sunday in the Park with George; Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year Award, Hasty Pudding Theatricals, Harvard University, 1987; Drama Desk Award nomination, 1987; Woman of the Year Award, 1993; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, 1993, and Sarah Siddons Award, actress of the year, 1994, both for The Goodbye Girl; President's Award, "Mr. Abbott" Awards Dinner, 1995; Theater Hall of Fame, inductee, 1996; Grammy Award nomination, 1996, for I'll Be Your Baby Tonight; Grammy Award nomination, 1997, for Sondheim Etc: Bernadette Peters Live at Carnegie Hall; Golden Satellite Award nomination, best performance by an actress, International Press Academy, 1998, for Cinderella; Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award, and Antoinette Perry Award, all outstanding actress in a musical, 1999, for Annie Get Your Gun; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding guest actress in a comedy, 2001, for Ally McBeal; Daytime Emmy Award nomination, outstanding performer in a children's special, 2003, for Bobbie's Girl; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best actress in a musical, Drama Desk Award, outstanding actress in a musical, 2003, both for Gypsy; Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame, Live Theatre; Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame, inductee.
Tessie, The Most Happy Fella, New York City Center Theatre, New York City, 1959.
Alice Burton, This Is Google, 1962.
Jenny, Riverwind, 1966.
Cinderella, The Penny Friend, Stage 73 Theatre, New York City, 1966-67.
(Broadway debut) The Girl in the Freudian Slip, Booth Theatre, New York City, 1967.
Bettina, Johnny No-Trump, Cort Theatre, New York City, 1967.
Alice, Curley McDimple, Wheeler Theatre, New York City, 1967-68.
Josie Cohan, George M!, Palace Theatre, New York City, 1968.
Ruby, Dames at Sea, Bowerie Lane Theatre, New York City, 1968-69.
Gelsomina, La Strada, Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, New York City, 1969.
Consuelo, Nevertheless They Laugh, Lambs Club Theatre, New York City, 1971.
Hildy, On the Town, Imperial Theatre, New York City, 1971-72.
Dorine, Tartuffe, Philadelphia Drama Guild Theatre, Philadelphia, PA, 1972-73.
Mabel Normand, Mack and Mabel, Majestic Theatre, New York City, 1974.
Sally, Sally and Marsha, Manhattan Theatre Club Downstage, New York City, 1982.
Dot, Sunday in the Park with George, Playwrights Horizons Theatre, New York City, 1983, then Booth Theatre, 1984-85.
Emma, Song and Dance, Royale Theatre, New York City, 1985-86.
Witch, Into the Woods, Martin Beck Theatre, New York City, 1987-89.
The Goodbye Girl, 1993.
Annie Oakley (title role), Annie Get Your Gun, Marquis Theatre, New York City, 1999.
Broadway Bears III, Hudson Theatre at Millennium Broadway, New York City, 2000.
Mama Rose, Gypsy, Shubert Theatre, New York City, 2003.
Gypsy, U.S. cities, 1961-62.
Carolotta Monti, W. C., U.S. cities, 1971.
Allison, Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1973.
Warden's secretary, The Longest Yard (also known as The Mean Machine), Paramount, 1974.
Vilma Kaplan, Silent Movie, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1976.
Little Dee, Vigilante Force, United Artists, 1976.
Melody, W. C. Fields and Me, Universal, 1976.
Marie Kimble Johnson, The Jerk, Universal, 1979.
Aqua, Heartbeeps, Universal, 1981.
Eileen, Pennies from Heaven, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1981.
Rutanya Wallace, Tulips, Avco Embassy, 1981.
Lily St. Regis, Annie, Columbia, 1982.
Eleanor, Slaves of New York, Tri-Star, 1989.
Lou Ann McGuinn, Pink Cadillac, Warner Brothers, 1989.
Muse, Alice, Orion, 1990.
Marie D'Agoult, Impromptu, Hemdale, 1991.
Peter Allen: The Boy from Oz, 1995.
Voice of Angelique, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (animated; also known as Beauty and the Beast 2), 1997.
Voice of Sophie, Anastasia (animated), 1997.
Herself and voice of Sophie, The Magical Journey of "Anastasia" (documentary short), Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, 1997.
Voice of Rita, Wakko's Wish (animated; also known as Steven Spielberg Presents "Animaniacs: Wakko's Wish), 1999.
Elise Ellis, Snow Days (also known as Let It Snow), 1999.
(Uncredited) Herself, The Making and Meaning of "We Are Family" (documentary; also known as We Are Family), 2002.
Voice of Sue, The Land Before Time X: The Great Longneck Migration (animated), Universal, 2003.
Rebecca Gromberg, It Runs in the Family (also known as Family Business), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2003.
Herself, The Making of "Anastasia" (documentary), Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2006.
Come le formiche (also known as Wine and Kisses), 2007.
Television Appearances; Series:
Charlotte (Charley) Drake, All's Fair, CBS, 1976-77.
Skit characters, The Carol Burnett Show, CBS, 1991.
Voice of Rita, Animaniacs (animated; also known as Steven Spielberg Presents "Animaniacs"), 1993.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Genevieve Selsor, The Martian Chronicles, 1980.
Circe, The Odyssey (also known as Die Abenteuer des Odysseus, Homer's "Odyssey," and Odysseia), 1997.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Trudy Engles, The Islander, 1978.
Lily St. Regis, Lights, Camera, Annie!, 1982.
Rothenberg, David, ABC, 1988.
Jane Murray, The Last Best Year of My Life, ABC, 1990.
Tammy Faye Bakker, "Fall from Grace," Sunday Night at the Movies, NBC, 1990.
Cinderella's stepmother, Cinderella (also known as Rodgers & Hammerstein "Cinderella"), ABC, 1997.
Helen Ayers, What the Deaf Man Heard, NBC, 1997.
Faith Shawn, Holiday in Your Heart, ABC, 1997.
Margo/"Titania," Prince Charming, TNT, 2001.
Bailey Lewis, Bobbie's Girl, Showtime, 2002.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Sarah Leaf, Adopted, ABC, 2005.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Josie Cohan, George M! (adaptation of the Broadway musical), NBC, 1970.
Bing Crosby—Cooling It, NBC, 1970.
Lady Larken, Once Upon a Mattress, CBS, 1972.
Burt and the Girls, NBC, 1973.
Bing Crosby—Cooling It, CBS, 1973.
Libby, Paradise Lost, 1974.
Cohost and presenter, The 29th Annual Tony Awards, ABC, 1975.
Josie Cohan, George M!, CBS, 1976.
Bing Crosby's White Christmas, CBS, 1976.
Performer, The 48th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1976.
Ringmaster, Circus of the Stars, CBS, 1977.
Bob Hope's All-Star Comedy Tribute to Vaudeville, NBC, 1977.
Uncle Tim Wants You, CBS, 1977.
The Beatles Forever, NBC, 1977.
They Said It With Music: Yankee Doodle to Ragtime, 1977.
Mac Davis' Christmas Odyssey: 2010, NBC, 1978.
The Magic of David Copperfield, 1978.
Perry Como's Springtime Special, ABC, 1979.
Ringmaster, Circus of the Stars#3, CBS, 1979.
Musical Comedy Tonight, PBS, 1979.
Sally, Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope in the Star Makers, NBC, 1980.
Presenter, The 53rd Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1981.
Baryshnikov in Hollywood, CBS, 1982.
Bob Hope's "All-Star Birthday at Annapolis" (also known as All-Star Birthday Party at Annapolis and Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's All-Star Birthday in Annapolis), NBC, 1982.
Texaco Star Theatre: Opening Night, NBC, 1982.
George Burns and Other Sex Symbols, NBC, 1982.
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's Pink Panther Thanksgiving Gala, NBC, 1982.
Women I Love: Beautiful But Funny (also known as Bob Hope's "Women I Love: Beautiful But Funny"), 1982.
George Burns Celebrates Eighty Years in Show Business, NBC, 1983.
Presenter and performer, The 38th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 1984.
Bob Hope's Happy Birthday Homecoming, NBC, 1985.
The Night of 100 Stars II, ABC, 1985.
Dot and Marie, Sunday in the Park with George, Showtime, 1986.
Presenter and performer, The 40th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 1986.
Presenter and performer, The 41st Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 1987.
Performer and presenter, The 59th Annual Academy Awards Presentation, ABC, 1987.
Happy 100th Birthday Hollywood (also known as Happy Birthday, Hollywood), ABC, 1987.
The Music Makers: An ASCAP Celebration of American Music at Wolf Trap, PBS, 1987.
A Star-Spangled Celebration, ABC, 1987.
Evening at Pops, PBS, 1987.
Ruby Lee Carter, Diana Ross … Red Hot Rhythm and Blues, ABC, 1987.
A Musical Toast: The Stars Shine on Public Television, 1987.
Presenter and performer, The 42nd Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 1988.
The 42nd Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 1988.
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts, CBS, 1989.
A Broadway Christmas, Showtime, 1990.
Presenter, The 44th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 1990.
The 33rd Annual Grammy Awards, CBS, 1991.
The Creative Spirit, 1992.
Performer, The 47th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 1993.
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts, 1993.
Performer, The 66th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1994.
Presenter, The 48th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 1994.
Narrator, Going, Going, Almost Gone!: Animals in Danger, 1994.
Salute to Steven Spielberg (also known as The 23rd American Film Institute Life Achievement Award: A Salute to Steven Spielberg), NBC, 1995.
A Tribute to Stephen Sondheim, 1995.
Presenter and performer, The 50th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 1996.
The 53rd Presidential Inaugural Gala: An American Journey, 1997.
Presenter, The 51st Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 1997.
Bernadette Peters in Concert, PBS, 1998.
Hey Mr. Producer (also known as Hey Mr. Producer!: The Musical World of Cameron Mackintosh), PBS, 1998.
Quincy Jones—The First 50 Years, 1998.
Host, Disney's Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra, 1998.
Performer, The 53rd Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 1999.
Irving Berlin: An American Song, 1999.
"Saturday Night Live": 25th Anniversary Primetime Special, NBC, 1999.
AFI … 100 Years, 100 Laughs: America's Funniest Movies, CBS, 2000.
Presenter, The 54th Annual Tony Awards, CBS and PBS, 2000.
Presenter, The 55th Annual Tony Awards, CBS and PBS, 2001.
Richard Rodgers: The Sweetest Sounds, PBS, 2001.
Presenter, The 2001 Creative Arts Emmy Awards, E! Entertainment Television, 2001.
Host and performer, The 56th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 2002.
Performer, The 57th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 2003.
The 26th Annul Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts, CBS, 2003.
Presenter, The 58th Annual Tony Awards (also known as The 2004 Tony Awards), CBS, 2004.
Performer and presenter, The 59th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 2005.
Presenter, The 61st Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 2007.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
House Party, 1952.
Horn & Hardart Children's Hour, 1953.
Girl, "The Christmas Tree," Hallmark Hall of Fame (also known as Hallmark Television Playhouse), 1958.
"We Interrupt This Season," NBC Experiment in Television, NBC, 1967.
Carol Burnett Show, CBS, 1969, 1974.
The Mike Douglas Show, 1970.
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, NBC, 1970, 1971, 1978.
"Lost Paradise," Theatre in America, PBS, 1971.
Toast of the Town (also known as The Ed Sullivan Show), 1971.
Kathy Griffith, "The Split: Rumpus in the Rumpus Room," Maude, 1972.
The Carol Burnett Show (also known as Carol Burnett and Friends), 1972, 1975, 1977.
"Love and the Hoodwinked Honey," Love, American Style, ABC, 1973.
The Merv Griffin Show, 1974.
Linda Galloway, "Gloria Suspects Mike," All in the Family, CBS, 1975.
You Don't Say, 1975.
"In Again, Out Again," McCoy, NBC, 1976.
Bebe Murchison, "The Day New York Turned Blue," McCloud, NBC, 1976.
Dinah! (also known as Dinah and Friends), 1976.
(Uncredited) Saturday Night Live (also known as SNL), NBC, 1976.
Herself and various characters, The Sonny and Cher Show, 1976.
Herself, The Muppet Show, 1977.
Host, Saturday Night Live (also known as SNL), NBC, 1981.
Sleeping Beauty and Princess Debbie, "Sleeping Beauty," Faerie Tale Theater (also known as Shelley Duvall's "Faerie Tale Theater"), Showtime, 1983.
"Trevor Farrell," An American Portrait, CBS, 1984.
Kate, "The Jingle Belles," Carol & Company, 1990.
Witch, "Into the Woods," American Playhouse, PBS, 1991.
The Howard Stern Show, 1991.
The soprano, "The Last Mile," Great Performances, PBS, 1992.
"Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall," Great Performances, PBS, 1993.
Herself, "Montana," The Larry Sanders Show, HBO, 1994.
Remember WENN, 1996.
The Rosie O'Donnell Show, syndicated, 1997, 1999, 2002.
Victoria Sherwood, "Baby, It's Cold Outside," The Closer, CBS, 1998.
Hollywood Squares (also known as H2 and H2: Hollywood Squares), 1998.
The Martin Short Show, 1999.
Voice of Fifi, "Fifi," Teacher's Pet (animated), ABC, 2000.
Inside the Actors Studio, Bravo, 2000.
Rachel, "Sliding Frasiers," Frasier, NBC, 2001.
Cassandra Lewis, "The Getaway," Ally McBeal, Fox, 2001.
Cassandra Lewis, "The Obstacle Course," Ally McBeal, Fox, 2001.
"30th Anniversary: A Celebration in Song," Great Performances, PBS, 2003.
The View, ABC, 2003.
Herself, "Rose," Character Studies, PBS, 2005.
The Early Show, CBS, 2005.
"Every Dog Had His Day," The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, NBC, 2005.
Live with Regis and Kelly, syndicated, 2005, 2007.
Gin, "Whatever Happened to Baby Gin?," Will & Grace, NBC, 2006.
Stella Danquiss, "Choreographed," Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (also known as Law & Order: SVU and Special Victims Unit), NBC, 2006.
This Week, BBC, 2006.
Judge Mariana Folger, "Guantanomo by the Bay," Boston Legal, ABC, 2007.
Also appeared in Juvenile Jury; Name That Tune; They Said It with Music; Lonely Man; House of Numbers; Ten Seconds to Hell; Warriors Five; as host, Rich, Thin, and Beautiful.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Doris, The Owl and the Pussycat, NBC, 1975.
Marie Trudy Engels, The Islander, CBS, 1978.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Genevieve Seltzer, The Martian Chronicles, NBC, 1980.
Circe, The Odyssey (also known as Die Abenteuer ver des Odysseus, Homer Odyssey, and Odissea), NBC, 1997.
Bernadette Peters, MCA, 1980.
Now Playing, MCA, 1981.
Sondheim: Sunday in the Park with George, RCA, 1985.
A Collector's Sondheim, 1985.
Bernadette Peters in "Song and Dance": The Songs, 1986.
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, Angel, 1996.
Sondheim Etc., Angel, 1997.
Bernadette Peters Loves Rodgers and Hammerstein, Angel, 2002.
Contemporary Musicians, Vol. 27, Gale Group, 2000.
Opera News, August, 2002, p. 60.
Parade Magazine, April 14, 2002, p. 22.
People Weekly, March 29, 1982, p. 70.
Playbill, May 31, 2003, pp. 4, 12.
Best-selling album since 1990: I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (1996)
Bernadette Peters combines remarkable singing skills and hair-triggered comic timing with a sultry sexuality to make her one of music's most unforgettable stars. A throwback to the days when performers could do it all—sing, dance, and act—Peters is as equally comfortable on a Broadway stage as she is on a movie set. She has placed more prominence on her recording career since the 1990s.
Urged into the arts by her working-class parents, Peters began performing at the age of three and was a veteran of several plays and television programs, including The Horn & Hardart Children's Hour and Name That Tune, before she was teenager. Her mother, concerned that their family's surname, Lazzara, would limit the performer to ethnic roles, changed it to Peters when she was ten. The name was derived from her father's first name. Shortly after, Peters began landing major roles in regional and touring stage productions, generally in musicals. After time off to attend a private high school, Peters returned to show business and hit the ground running. She was cast in numerous Broadway and off-Broadway shows, garnered several awards and enough visibility for a viable attempt at the big screen. She moved to Hollywood and immediately received accolades for performances in several supporting roles, including a memorable turn as a naïve secretary in The Longest Yard (1974). She teamed with comedian Steve Martin in leading roles for two films: The Jerk (1979) and an avant-garde musical, Pennies from Heaven (1981). While critics had misgivings about both films, her performances were highly acclaimed. She returned to Broadway the following year and began adeptly juggling Tony Award–winning success in shows such as Andrew Lloyd Webber's Song and Dance and Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George amid an ongoing television and film career.
While performing in the Broadway show The Goodbye Girl, a stage remake of Neil Simon's hit film of the
same name, Peters released Bernadette (1992). The album contains a collection of thirteen previously released songs from her debut album, Bernadette Peters (1980), and Now Playing (1981). It features little of the Broadway fare that fans recognize her for in favor of an eclectic mix of country ballads and period rock styles. It does feature her signature, "Broadway Baby" sung in Peters's distinctive lisp.
Peters's voice is lilting, often with a seductive rasp on the back end of notes. She can power songs forward in a soprano belt or make them tenderly balance to-and-fro on the thin edge of sound and silence. Her Grammy-nominated release, I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, (1996) contains an assortment of songs from many popular artists, including Bob Dylan who wrote the album's title song. Peters chooses to give the Dylan classic a strong blues touch. The album also contains songs from such noted musicians as Sam Cooke, the Beatles, Billy Joel, Lyle Lovett, and Eric Clapton, among others. Also included are sprinklings of Broadway music including Sondheim's poignant "No One Is Alone." Peters injects I'll Be Your Baby Tonight with her strong acting and interpretive skills making all the songs seem uniquely hers.
In 1997 Peters recorded a fifteen-song live album of her first concert at Carnegie Hall, Sondheim, Etc. (1997), which was a benefit for the Gay Men's Health Crisis. The album contains mostly Sondheim songs and features several humorous dispatches characteristic of the pouty-styled performer.
Peters won her second Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical (the first was from Song and Dance in 1985) when she returned to Broadway in a revival of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun in 1999. She followed that with more movie roles and Emmy-nominated guest appearances on the television sitcom Ally McBeal before recording Bernadette Peters Loves Rodgers and Hammerstein (2002). Although she is more closely associated with the work of Sondheim, this thirteen-song album serves as her tribute to what many critics consider the greatest songwriting team in Broadway musical history.
In March 2003 Peters began performances on Broadway in the revival of the musical Gypsy. In Gypsy, she embarked on one of American theater's supreme female musical roles, Rose, the meddling stage mother of two daughters in a traveling vaudeville troupe. The performance earned her a Tony award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical.
Peters's achievements in film, in television, and as one of Broadway's most prolific performers have probably distracted her from maintaining the kind of recording career that someone of her talent warrants.
Bernadette (MCA 1992); I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (Angel Classics, 1996); Sondheim, Etc. (Angel Classics, 1997); Bernadette Peters Loves Rodgers and Hammerstein (Angel Classics, 2002). Broadway Cast Recordings: Sunday in the Park with George (RCA, 1984); Into the Woods (RCA, 1988); Annie Get Your Gun (Angel Classics, 1999).
The Longest Yard (1974); The Jerk (1979); Pennies from Heaven (1981); Heart Beeps (1981) ; Slaves of New York (1989); Pink Cadillac (1989); Cinderella (1997); Prince Charming (2001); Let It Snow (2001); Bobbies Girl (2002); It Runs in the Family (2003).