The legendary Bernadette Peters has a career that has spanned decades thanks to her theater, television and film work over the years. She has taken home trophies along the way, including multiple Tony Awards, three Drama Desk Awards, several lifetime achievement awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Her iconic work in musicals includes Into the Woods, Annie Get Your Gun, Gypsy and, most recently, when she took over from Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly last year. She will be forever remembered in films like Silent Movie, The Jerk and Pennies from Heaven. Peters had unforgettable television appearances starting early with The Carol Burnett Show, continuing with many television movies and leading into a major role in Amazon's Mozart in the Jungle recently. Her latest project, The Good Fight, a spinoff of The Good Wife, has her playing Lenore Rindell, the mother of a lesbian attorney portrayed by Rose Leslie ( who was on Game of Thrones ).
Her solo music includes six albums, with several Grammy nominations for recordings of Stephen Sondheim as well as Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Peters puts her money where her mouth is by throwing benefits for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and Broadway Barks to support her love for both the LGBT community and her pets. She even writes children's books involving her dogs with proceeds going to help Broadway Barks as part of the deal.
Windy City Times: Hi, Bernadette. You are coming to the Paramount Theatre this month.
Bernadette Peters: Yes, I will be in Aurora.
WCT: Do you bring a band or just an accompanist?
BP: We have a 10-piece band. I will have my lighting designer and sound. The Bob Mackie dress will be there too!
WCT: I love some Bob Mackie! Do you have a favorite memory from The Carol Burnett Show?
BP: It's so funny, I will see a clip now and again and think, "How lucky was I?" I got to work with Carol Burnett and play Raven in The Exorcist sketch. It was so much fun.
I'm in awe more of Carol now than then! Back then, I was just in the moment and doing the work. I look at it now and go, "Wow!"
WCT: Do you like all the traveling when on tour?
BP: When I am traveling, I am so focused on work. I don't like to distract myself with seeing all the sights. I like to come in and do my job. My routine is vocalizing and going to the gym, then vocalize again, go to rehearsal and do the show. It's all about the show.
WCT: How do you protect your voice after all this time?
BP: I take singing lessons and I vocalize. You have to keep it up. It's a muscle. I'm always learning how to preserve it.
WCT: Is there one thing you require in your dressing room on tour?
BP: I try not to get attached to anything, but I always have to have the hot water for my tea. I like a hot kettle! [Laughs]
WCT: Is there one Broadway show that you want to do, but haven't?
BP: I have been so lucky to have done most of the great ones. I originated Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods, but then I got to do Annie Get Your Gun and Gypsy. I loved the role in A Little Night Music. I never knew how well-constructed the show Hello, Dolly was until I did it.
WCT: Did you feel competition from Bette Midler when you took over the lead in Hello, Dolly?
BP: No. I actually like her very much and she's my friend.
WCT: What led you to being involved with the LGBT community?
BP: In the beginning, I was doing summer stock and was asked to be in a show at the Caffe Cino. I did Dames at Sea. The audience was hysterically laughing there. They got every joke and every line. They were mostly gay guys. I couldn't wait to change my clothes and run back onstage to meet them. That was the first show, and then we took it off-Broadway and it had a following.
The LGBTQ community are sensitive people and always into the arts. They would tell their friends about my shows and then I started having a wonderful audience. They understand people that sing. If I am singing something with real emotion, they get it. People have asked me about the following before and I would say, "Because they are smart!"
WCT: You have done a lot for the community by raising money over the years.
BP: Well, I am on the board for Broadway Cares and Tom Viola, who is the executive director, helps with the event Broadway Barks. He's so generous and caring.
WCT: How many dogs do you have now?
BP: I have twoone for each hand!
WCT: Are you bringing them with you to Aurora?
BP: No. They are big. Someone keeps them at home, where they are comfy. When I would first leave and come back, the male would howl at me. He's used to it now and not so heartbroken.
WCT: Kristin Chenoweth brought her dog, Thunder, with her on this last tour and it kept barking at me backstage.
BP: Her little cockapoo?
WCT: Yes. I love that you know her dog. Are you planning on writing more books?
BP: I haven't written any more, but really need to. I wrote about two past dogs, but have a new one that I don't have a book about, so I need to write about her.
I like to sell all the books and CDs because all the money that I raise goes to Broadway Barks and helping the animals.
WCT: There is such a nostalgia for movies like The Jerk. Do fans still ask you about it?
BP: Yes, they will quote a line from it or ask if I really played the trumpet. A trumpet player once said, "Thanks for the learning the fingering," which I did. That film really is a classic now, isn't it?
WCT: Yes, defintely. So, The Good Fight was picked up for a fourth season. Are you on that again?
BP: I did that the beginning last year. I play her mother, so hopefully I will be back on. The first season is on CBS right now instead of Access. I caught it Sunday night. It's such a good show. The writing is so good!
WCT: It's about the "First Family of Chicago," but not actually filmed in Chicago?
BP: Right. It's filmed in New York. [Laughs]
WCT: Is there one thing in your career that you still want to accomplish?
BP: I love singing, but maybe more plays. I am loving doing television because it's all acting. I am about to do another little film.
I keep learning and growing. I love that. I like figuring out how to get better and surprise myself. That's why I love doing these concerts. I go on a journey with the audience and we are all in this room together to have an experience.
Peters takes the stage for one night only at Aurora's Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., on Saturday, Aug. 17. Tickets can be found at ParamountAurora.com or by calling 630-896-6666.
Visit BernadettePeters.com for more on the legendary singer.