PHOTO ARCHIVE: Celebrating Bernadette Peters and Song and Dance
By Matthew Blank
The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Song and Dance opened on this date in 1985. It would earn Bernadette Peters her first Tony Award. We look back at that show and other Bernadette Greatest Hits!
Peters made her New York theatrical debut at the age of ten, playing the role of Tessie in a City Center revival of The Most Happy Fella. Since that time the celebrated singing actress has become one of the most sought-after musical theatre performers, one who brings a mix of humor, warmth, passion and emotional depth to all her work. In fact, listening to her early recordings in such musicals as Dames at Sea and George M! one can hear the unique mix of vocal colors and nuanced interpretations that, several years later, would help her solidify her position as one of the all-time great musical theatre stars.
Although she won her Tony Awards for her performances in musicals by Andrew Lloyd Webber (Song & Dance) and Irving Berlin (the revival of Annie Get Your Gun) and also created leading roles in musicals by Jerry Herman (Mack & Mabel) and Marvin Hamlisch (The Goodbye Girl), Peters is, perhaps, most associated with the work of Stephen Sondheim, having offered beautifully shaded performances in five Broadway musicals that boast lyrics and/or music by Sondheim: model/mistress Dot in Sunday in the Park with George, a wise, but crooked-fingered Witch in Into the Woods, the indomitable stage mother Rose in Gypsy, the captivating actress Desiree Armfeldt in A Little Night Music and, most recently, a former Follies girl in Follies.
It was the aforementioned Sam Mendes-directed revival of Gypsy that earned Peters her seventh Tony nomination and seemed to mark a new chapter in her career, as she completely shed her endearing persona to fully delve into the psyche of the powerhouse that is Rose. And, although her TV and film work remain equally compelling, Peters is a true "Broadway Baby," returning to the stage year after year, allowing audiences to revel in her formidable talents as both a singer and actress.
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