The next act coming to The Paramount makes me want to become one of The Four Tops. That way I can belt out lyrics to one of their hits with unbridled joy. You know what song I’m talking about…
Bernadette Peters is a true multimedia icon. She’s a five pointed star: award-winning stage performer, television personality, recording artist, successful film actress and published children’s book author. This is what a multi-talented star really looks like; not like those artificially-flavored cross-platform “stars” of today. Sure, Will Smith may have gotten jiggy with it, ruled Bel Air, and battled aliens with Tommy Lee Jones, but I don’t recall him appearing on stage at any time. Heck, all he’s done lately is inundate us with his children, who practice karate and whip their hair around. Ok, but what about Jennifer Lopez, you may ask? To that I counter with a stout “ha!” J-Lo? Please. She may have played Selena, but was never considerably well-regarded as a pop star. More recently, that diva can’t even sustain the ratings of “American Idol.”
By comparison, Bernadette’s talent is as pure as cane sugar. In a career that has spanned over 50 years thus far, she has won acclaim in nearly every major arena of the performing arts. Starting at age 9, she had joined the second national tour of “Gypsy” at the ripe old age of 13. Over the next few years she added singing to her repertoire and firmly established a stage career for herself, finally making her Broadway debut in 1967. She eventually left the stage for other pursuits, but returned years later and won acclaim for “On the Town” (the revival), “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Into the Woods,” and many others.
In the early 1970s Peters blossomed in television and film. She made appearances on variety programming like “Sonny and Cher” and “The Carol Burnett Show.” Bernadette was even Emmy nominated for guest stints on “The Muppet Show” (ha! forget you, Cee-Lo Green). Her appearances have dotted the landscape of television over the last few decades, so chances are great that you’ve seen her in something. Even if you don’t know her beautiful face, you can always recognize that distinctive voice.
Her vocal styles were not just limited to the stage, however. Since 1980, Peters has released six solo albums and a number of singles as well. Not merely comprised of show tunes, they display an impressive vocal range and willingness to test herself in the waters of different musical genres. Not surprisingly, all garnered her wide acclaim and is a resultant three-time Grammy nominee.
An avid animal activist, Peters also supports her cause by writing children’s books and donating the proceeds to charity. They feature a variety of animals in uplifting stories for young readers. In addition, the books contain CDs with accompanying narration, lullabies, and songs. To children and adults alike, these are treasures. If there’s one thing Bernadette demonstrates time and again, it’s that you can never overextend yourself if you place your heart and soul into everything you do.
Although she’s appeared on film in many different roles and has worked with the likes of Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen, there is one movie that strikes above all others. My unabashed love for Ms. Peters was naturally spawned from my exposure to her at a tender age. For me, that first experience was in the highly underrated comedic gem, The Jerk. It’s a film I revisit every few years, and not just for laughs. Yes, I love the zany and moronic antics of Steve Martin, but I treasure the sweet (yet still hilarious) moments provided by Bernadette. Take for instance, this. It’s my favorite scene:
Wasn’t that just silly yet perfectly endearing? Plus, it had Steve on the banjo! Sweet as honeysuckle on a vine.
Years later, my love for Ms. Peter would be rekindled when I got the opportunity to see her perform live. In the summer of 1993 during a trip to New York City, I saw her and Martin Short in a Broadway production of “The Goodbye Girl.” Needless to say, she was fantastic. And I’ve remained a fan ever since.
Chances are, you won’t need the refresher like I did. When she takes the stage here in Austin, you’ll likely love her from the moment you hear her (if you don’t already). At that point, you can join me as we pay homage by exclaiming her name in joy. You know, like one of The Four Tops.
Ms. Bernadette Peters performs at The Paramount Theatre on Friday, March 25th at 8:00 p.m.