Bernadette Peters performs in Sarasota

mclear@bradenton.comDecember 12, 2013 

Peters will sing Broadway show tunes and holiday favorites. PUBLICITY PHOTO

No one sings Stephen Sondheim songs quite like Bernadette Peters, and she's been singing them a lot lately.

In just the past couple of years, she has starred in a massively acclaimed revivals of Sondheim's "A Little Night Music," directed by Trevor Nunn, and a similarly lauded production of Sondhiem's "Follies" at New York's Kennedy Center.

She's also, in recent weeks, finished seven performances of "A Bed and a Chair," a jazzy re-working of Sondheim songs created by Wynton Marsalis. It ran for seven performances at the New York City Center.

"Ms. Peters -- lookin' better than a body has a right to (to borrow from Dolly Parton) in a fuchsia bandage of a dress -- more or less goes her own way, and the audience is delighted to follow her," wrote Ben Brantley in the New York Times. "As a singer and actress, she just can't help being ardent, full-throated and sincere."

Peters herself is a little more succinct in her praise of the show.

"Well, Steve liked it, so I guess that means it was good," Peters said in a phone interview from her Manhattan home.

The "Steve" she refers to is, of course, Sondheim, whose shows she has starred in on Broadway since the early 1980s.

She has other stuff going on, too. She recently completed a TV pilot that she doesn't want to talk about, and she was a late addition to the cast of "Smash," the Broadway-based television series that had a loyal but apparently tiny following.

"That was fun," she said of the show. "I really enjoyed it. They had such great people and they were all so wonderful to work with. Katherine McPhee, Angelica Huston. I played Megan Hilty's mother. It's too bad. That show was just finding its legs. It found its legs but it hadn't found its audience."

Peters, who at 65 still speaks with that innocent-sounding voice she's had since she was young, will take a break from all that New York activity to visit Sarasota on Sunday. She'll perform in concert at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

"We're getting close to Christmas, so we're going to have a few Christmas songs which will be fun," she said. Since I just did 'A Little Night Music' on Broadway I'll do 'Send in the Clowns,' I'll do some songs from 'Follies,' I'll do some Rodgers and Hammerstein."

Just by coincidence, Peters will be at Van Wezel two days before Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, with whom she just worked.

Peters has been a show biz pro since she was 9, and has been a star since the '60s, when she starred in "George M!" on Broadway and "Dames at Sea" Off-Broadway.

Besides "Follies" and "A Little night Music," her Sondheim roles on Broadway include "Sunday in the Park With George," Into the Woods" and "Gypsy."

For her Van Wezel show, she'll be supported by an 11-piece orchestra.

"They're on stage with me," she said. "They're my backdrop."

Details: 7 p.m. Dec. 15, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets: $35-$80. Information: 941-953-3368, www.vanwezel.org.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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