3 min

Discover excitement

By hitting the right notes

THE QUEEN OF QUEENS. Ozone Park, New York native and gay icon, Bernadette Peters.

“It was very scary,” says Tony Award-winner Bernadette Peters on the Sep 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre. “But New Yorkers really bonded, everyone has pulled together. Everybody just wants to do something…. And this is something we can do.”

Peters is talking about a new public service announcement featuring a giant cross section of Broadway stars like Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Patti LuPone, Betty Buckley, singing “New York, New York” in a bid to get people to come see the shows that are such an integral part of normal New York life.

“It’s to get people to come to Broadway and feed their soul, which is what they need right now,” says Peters; her husband, an investment advisor, lost a friend in the attacks. “[The terrorists] tried to destroy our soul, but they didn’t, they can’t.

“Broadway is up and strong and running. We’re here for you.

“[Broadway] is more than escapism…. It hits the notes that are in us, that make us feel good.”

Peters will hit the notes in Toronto on Fri, Oct 26. The concert will feature songs from Annie Get Your Gun (the revival won Peters her second Tony in 1999), works by her fave Stephen Sondheim and a sneak preview of her new album of Rodgers and Hammerstein songs.

“No one has ever recorded just Rodgers and Hammerstein. And boy, you know, we were supposed to start it Sep 12 – of course we put it off. When we went back into the studio the next week, it felt so good, it’s so soothing – and the music is, it’s very healing music, it’s all about truth and beauty.”

The album will be released next spring to recognize the centenary of Richard Rodgers birth. From “Isn’t It Romantic” written with Lorenz Hart in 1932 to 1959’s “The Sound Of Music” with Oscar Hammerstein, Rodgers is a towering figure, equally adept at music and lyrics. For Peters, sorting through Rodger’s giant songbook meant looking for pieces that she could connect with personally.

“I don’t separate the music from the lyric, though I mostly relate to the lyric. When something is written well, it’s a great marriage of the intent, of what they are trying to say, and the music.

“I’m singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone,’ and I didn’t think I’d sing that song. But I explored it, and it’s just wonderful.”

For the album, she’s working with producer Richard J Alexander, with whom she worked on the 1991 recording of Sondheim: A Celebration At Carnegie Hall.

“When you go into the studio, you just have enough time to know [a song] but you don’t really know it. So it still has an edge and you can discover something. It’s kind of like making movies, where you have to capture that moment of discovery on the screen. That’s what’s so exciting.”

At the end of next year, Peters is set to star in a West End production of Gypsy – completing a circle of sorts.

“I was on the road [with Gypsy] when I was 13. I was understudying Dainty June. But my resumé said I played Dainty June. I lied; that’s not true. My mother said. ‘That’s fine, put it in.’ And I meant to apologize to the girl who originally played Dainty June – I remember her name, it’s Suzy Martin – but I haven’t found her, yet.

“Truth be known, it was padding the resumé, as beginners are wont to do.”

No padding is required for her Roy Thomson Hall gig. Though she’s been on the stage for more than 30 years, Peters made her solo debut at Carnegie Hall five years ago in a benefit concert for NYC’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Her solo concerts have cemented Peters’ reputation as a consummate performer who keeps the standard repertoire fresh and vibrant.

She credits audiences for her spirit of discovery. Singing on stage is different from just singing for herself, “because of the setting,” she says. “It puts you in a different place.

“It’s interesting. For me the stage is a very safe place; it’s a setting of creativity, a setting of exploring…. Perhaps because I grew up on the stage.”

Bernadette Peters.


8pm. Fri, Oct 26.

Roy Thomson Hall.

60 Simcoe St.