Songs of Bernadette


Gotta be something. ... Just gotta be.

Something, anything, that Bernadette Peters hasn't done in show business.

Puppet show in Pago Pago? Fire-eater in a traveling Lithuanian circus? "Gypsy" in Sanskrit?

Don't know for sure. Still, wagering that she hasn't is a sucker's bet.

Pixie-ish as ever at 62, the star of Broadway and screens large and small, variety performer and author of children's books drops by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on Saturday to bring the curtain up on a concert that brings the curtain down on this season's New York Stage & Beyond series.

Here, a cheerful Peters discusses Las Vegas, pit bulls, Al Pacino, "not acting" and her long, fruitful career:

Question: You're so associated with Broadway, but is coming to Las Vegas satisfying for you?

Answer: I used to go there a lot. I started at the Riviera with Rich Little and Bob Newhart, then moved over to Caesars and the Desert Inn, which I loved.

Q: Can you give us a peek at your repertoire for your UNLV concert?

A: A lot of Sondheim, but I also sing Peggy Lee's "Fever," things that touch in my soul, like "Shenandoah" and Rodgers and Hammerstein, "Some Enchanted Evening," which is a magical song. I sing "There Is Nothing Like a Dame," but reversed because I'm singing about being a dame. Unexpected stuff.

Q: You've been described as the foremost interpreter of the Stephen Sondheim oeuvre, having been in "Into the Woods," "Gypsy" and "Sunday in the Park with George." Why is his music such a good fit for you?

A: He writes the music and the lyrics, and because he does, they tell perfect stories. I miss them when I don't sing them, sentiments like "Children Will Listen" and "No One Is Alone," the positive things we need to remember in life. I love singing "Not a Day Goes By," "Losing My Mind" and "In Buddy's Eyes." He knows what words to choose to say exactly what a character is going through.

Q: Was his music ever intimidating?

A: The first time I did a Sondheim show, it seemed difficult when I did "Sunday in the Park with George." It had a lot of words and notes. I thought, "I'm crazy to be here," and then you finally get it.

Q: Do you have favorite Broadway memories?

A: Doing "Gypsy," that grew into an enormously beautiful show where all the actors, we got to know each other so well that one night, I said, "I know this so well, I'm going to stop acting." The next night, I said to one of the actors, "That scene was really great," and she said, "Yeah, I just stopped acting."

Q: You co-founded, with Mary Tyler Moore, "Broadway Barks," to benefit shelter animals in New York City, and you've written children's books about your dogs, the first one making the New York Times Best-Seller list. The latest, "Stella Is a Star," will be released Saturday. What is it about?

A: It's about my dog, who is a pit bull. I used to be afraid of pit bulls, but people don't realize, they're like sponges, they'll do whatever you imprint on them. They're loving, big kissy-face dogs that want to sit in your lap. During World War I, that was the family dog. And Petey in the "Our Gang" comedies was a pit bull.

The story is about a pit bull who doesn't think anyone likes her so she's masquerading as a pig of the highest order. She wants to make friends, and she wants to dance, so she goes to the school, If Pigs Could Dance. It's about accepting and loving yourself, and not judging from the outside. It's a lovely story.

Q: Many performers use Facebook and Twitter to develop relationships with fans. Do you use them?

A: I don't. I meet them after shows. I was always afraid of getting a computer, because I knew it would take up time I could be reading a book or exercising.

Q: Are there types of projects you'd still like to do?

A: More dramatic things. I just did a movie ("Coming Up Roses," set for release this year). It's a true story, a mother and her two daughters, the 15-year-old takes care of the mother because of mental illness, and it's interesting to play. And I'd like to do some Tennessee Williams.

Q: Any actors you'd still love to share a stage or a film set with?

A: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Frank Sinatra -- I don't think that last one is going to work out. I've seen Al Pacino on stage. It's just, "Oh my God." He comes out and it's like BAM!

Q: With Broadway, movies, TV and concerts all part of your eventful career, do you prefer any one genre to work in?

A: I go wherever the writing is the truest. Sometimes it's theater, sometimes it can be in film. But in theater, you get to do it every night, refine it, go deeper, that's the privilege of theater. What's exciting about being an actor is if you can get a role that expands who you are and you learn about yourself, and people learn about you and see parts of you you've never even known about yourself.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

 

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.