Bernadette Peters enjoys her multifaceted life
By Sheryl DeVore For Sun-Times Media February 12, 2014 9:09PM
Bernadette Peters | Neilson Barnard/Getty Images
Bernadette Peters, 8 p.m. Feb. 14. Genesee Theatre, 203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan. $52.50-$92.50. (847) 782-2366; geneseetheatre.com
Updated: February 14, 2014 8:20AM
Bernadette Peters — called the theater’s most gifted diva of the last quarter-century by the Washington Post — has a high energy level because she takes “very good care” of herself. “I exercise a lot. I eat healthy,” she said recently from her New York home.
Talk to her a few moments longer and you realize the key to her success is not only taking care of herself, but also doing everything she loves — from singing, acting and starring on Broadway to caring for animals and writing children’s books. Her work spreads the message, “No One is Alone,” the title of the Stephen Sondheim song he wrote for “Into the Woods.”
Though Peters did not sing “No One is Alone,” in the musical, it is one of her favorite songs to perform and she promises it’s on her set list when she comes to Genesee Theatre Feb. 14.
“It’s a song that reaches everybody” Peters said. “It’s even more than thinking no one is alone. It’s knowing that there’s always someone out there who thinks and feels the way you feel. I have to remind myself to remember this.”
Peters said she’s always known musical theater would be her life. “I found myself in the business when I was very little,” she said, recalling one of her first performances singing, “Dites-Moi” in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific.”
Peters’ lilting, full-range voice may seem effortless, but she admits when she was young she did not speak correctly, which translated to not singing correctly. “My mother had polyps and spoke incorrectly with her throat.” Peters said she learned to speak that way, too, and later had to “unlearn all the bad habits. I started training with such good teachers and learned to not sing in my throat, but to develop my head voice.”
Her role in “Gypsy” is among her favorites. “I love ‘Gypsy,’ ” she said. “I loved playing Rose — it was therapy. It’s such a deep role; it’s like doing ‘Hamlet.’ ” Peters’ first Broadway production was a bit part in “Gypsy.” “I was on the road when I was 13 when I was in that show,” she said.
When asked about her finest achievements, however, Peters mentions Broadway Barks, a charity she started with Mary Tyler Moore more than a decade ago to raise money for animal shelters in New York City, encouraging adoption. “They were so crowded. There were so many dogs and cats in there. … What people sometimes don’t understand is why these lovely companion animals are here,” she said. “They’re for us. They’re here for healing.”
Peters is working on her third children’s book. “It’s about Charlie [the dog], how he came to live here, how you learn little lessons from your pets,” she said. Her first children’s book, “Broadway Barks,” was on the New York Times best-seller list. Peters donates proceeds to the book’s namesake charity.
“It’s great to have new projects,” she said. “You just have to see what’s out there and what people need and be available.”