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Moving on with Bernadette Peters


SSS: What did you think of Passion?

BP: I loved it

SSS: Have you heard anything from Wise Guys yet?

BP: No.

SSS: On camera Sondheim seems really painfully shy. Is this true?

BP: Yeah. He loves teaching but he doesn't really like the camera that much.

SSS: Do you two socialize much?

BP: Yeah, we see each other.

SSS: Are there any funny stories you will share?

BP: No.

SSS: Fair enough. Are there roles in your career that "got away" - as the old Judy Garland song goes - that you wish hadn't?

BP: A role that I wanted to do and didn't get? No. And usually if I say no I have a good reason. Meaning that I just don't connect to it or see myself in it. But someone else could do it and do a wonderful job. I'm usually never sorry when I say no.

SSS: Move on.

BP: Yeah.

SSS: What brought you together with the Gay Men's Health Crisis?

BP: Well, I've done things here and there for them. Last year we did Anyone Can Whistle, which I loved doing. And one year I hosted a special program for them in a beautiful rooftop garden. It was actually Arthur Laurents that called, because he's connected with them. He said, "We want to do a benefit, and we think you should do a concert." So I considered it and thought, well, if I do a show in New York I want to give the people something they really would enjoy. So that's where the idea of doing a whole Sondheim second act came into play.

SSS: You and Sondheim both have a large gay following. Why do you think that is?

BP: I don't know. Maybe it starts with him and then I sing his music. (Laughs) I don't know, maybe it started with me with Dames at Sea.

Seriously though, I think gay people are drawn to things that have emotional depth and feeling. They love performers who are expressive and who throw themselves into things very deeply, which I do. And I think that's great. I do what I can to help [with AIDS fund- raising] and Steve does work for the GMHC and Friends In Deed, also.

I love singing with gay men's choruses. I did it last, I think, in Los Angeles. In Chicago I got flowers from the chorus there, which was so sweet. They couldn't come because they were also performing that night. But I thought that was such a nice thing, to send me flowers.

SSS: Do you prefer concert work or theater? What are the pluses and minuses of each side?

BP: Well, theater is eight shows a week. It's very hard work. But I love doing theater when the role is wonderful and feeds me and is fun to do. With concerts, I choose what I want to sing, so that's great. And the time commitment is much less.

SSS: Staged concerts of musicals like Anyone Can Whistle or the Encore's Chicago which now is on Broadway as an ongoing show, have become really popular. What do you think of this trend of reviving shows through a concert format?

BP: I think it's a great vehicle when the music is great but there's a lot in the book that needs to be cut away. It's a great way to do it. To still enjoy a show, without getting stuck in a book that doesn't work.

SSS: How do you feel about the revival trend in general?

BP: I think if something is entertaining, it's entertaining. Why not revive it?

SSS: Looking back over the shows that you've done, are there any that you would consider for a revival? Like Mack and Mabel?

BP: I don't usually like to revisit places I've been for myself. It has a great score, though, a really great score.

SSS: Why do you feel it didn't succeed?

BP: They said the book had a lot of trouble with it. And then they said that it had a sad ending, instead of an up ending. I don't know. I think if they ever wanted to revive it they should just hand it to two young writers who'd research who Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand really were and write a whole new book.

SSS: In Showtune (his recent autobiography) Jerry Herman wrote that he thought one of the biggest problems was the age difference between you and Robert Preston.

BP: Really? I don't remember hearing that [back] then. But maybe he did, maybe he heard that.

SSS: What was it like working with Herman versus Sondheim?

BP: Steve's more of a thinker, thinker, thinker, thinker. His mind is always on his thinking phase. Jerry was kind of more... His face had always had a peaceful look on it. And so I always felt good when I saw his face, because I knew that everything was okay. Until one day when he was worried, and then I thought, "Ohmigod, we're in trouble! He's got a worried look on his face!"

SSS: How about Sondheim versus Andrew Lloyd Webber?

BP: Well, Andy wasn't around for Song and Dance [on Broadway]. They had already done it in London. He just came for one music rehearsal with the orchestra.

SSS: What was it like carrying a whole first act all by yourself in Song and Dance?

BP: Well, when they explained the show to me, I kept thinking they were saying it wrong. "Now, what are you saying? That the whole first act is sung by one person? Now let me say it again in a different way. The first act is just one person on stage alone?" I mean, I didn't think I was hearing right. That it was a Broadway show with one person singing the whole first act by herself. So I got that clear. And then, I thought, "Well, this is a challenge. I have to take this challenge." And that's what I did.

SSS: You won your Tony award for Song and Dance. Looking back over your career, is there another role you wished you might have won it for?

BP: Well, any Tony is a good Tony in my book. So I'm not going to argue with them. (Laughs)

SSS: If Bernadette Lazzara hadn't become an actress, what might she have done?

BP: I don't know. Probably shot herself! (Laughs) She definitely would have gotten out of Queens. Maybe teaching? I don't know. I guess I"ll never know.

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