Since making her Broadway debut as Tessie in the 1959 City Center revival of Frank Loesser’s The Most Happy Fella, Bernadette Peters has become one of the great and enduring icons of the Broadway musical theater. Throughout her illustrious career, Bernadette Peters has dazzled audiences and critics with her performances on stage, film and television, in concert, and on recordings. From Dot to Dolly, the critically-acclaimed performer has graced the stage and screen with her iconic voice (and hair!) in myriad roles, each one more unique than the last. Ahead of her performance at Chandler Center for the Arts on Saturday, March 7, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite Bernadette Peters roles (and unforgettable lines!) of the stage and screen.
10. Sophie, Anastasia
You may not recognize her animated character in this 1997 animated film, but you definitely recognize the voice. Peters brought her vocal prowess to Anastasia as Sophie, a relative and lady-in-waiting to Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna. Peters took on the role after previously lending her voice to the TV show Animaniacs.
Memorable quote: “Welcome, my friends, to Paris/Here, have a flower on me/Forget where you’re from/You're in France! Children, come!/I'll show you that French ‘joie de vivre’!”
9. Gloria Windsor, Mozart in the Jungle
From 2014 to 2018, Peters played Gloria Windsor, the president of the New York Symphony, on this highly popular Amazon Prime Show based on Blair Tindall’s memoir, Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music. The classical-concert-meets-soap-opera won a Golden Globe in 2016, but the real prize for fans was a hearty library of priceless Gloria Windsor reactions turned into GIFs.
Oh, you're charming when you're angry, Gloria.
Edward, stick it!
8. Marie, The Jerk
In multiple interviews, Peters has said one of her favorite roles to play was her turn as the trumpet playing vixen Marie -- opposite Steve Martin as Navin -- in the 1979 funny film The Jerk. Their ukulele-fueled love story is cute, crass, and unforgettable – all the things Peters loves most.
Why are you crying? And why are you wearing that old dress?
Because I just heard a song on the radio that reminded me of the way we were.
What was it?
"The Way We Were."
7. Stepmother, Cinderella
When The Wonderful World of Disney set out to create a live-action version of Cinderella in 1997, the role of Stepmother was one of the first they cast. Bernadette Peters was their first choice, and for good reason – Peters played the part of the villain with surgical precision, serving as the perfect counterpart to the sweet Brandy Norwood in the titular character.
Memorable quote: “Beauty knows no pain, girls!”
6. Dot/Marie, Sunday in the Park with George
Inspired by George Seurat’s famous painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine created one of the most acclaimed musicals of all time. Its success was in large part to Peters, who played the dual roles of Dot and Marie alongside Mandy Patinkin as George. The performance earned Peters her third Tony nomination and a permanent status as Broadway Icon.
Memorable quote: “It's not so much do what you like/As it is that you like what you do."
5. Desiree Armfeldt, A Little Night Music
In another Sondheim musical, Peters played Desiree Armfeldt, a self-absorbed, once-successful actress now touring the countryside in a life that is significantly less glamorous than what she once experienced. Peters received high praise for her rich, warm, and comedically human portrayal of Armfeldt, with critics declaring her performance of the classic “Send in the Clowns” one of the best ever.
[After surviving a round of Russian Roulette]
I don’t suppose this is my heavenly reward, is it?
Hardly, dear, with me here.
4. Annie Oakley, Annie Get Your Gun
In this long-awaited Broadway revival, Bernadette Peters played the 1999 version of the rough-and-tumble sharpshooter Annie Oakley, adding a level of modernity to the role originated on Broadway in 1946 by Ethel Merman. Peters was the perfect choice to play Oakley, the spunky gal used to “doin’ what comes natur’lly” – and in this case, what came naturally was a Tony award.
Memorable quote: “Anything you can do, I can do better/I can do anything better than you.”
3. Rose, Gypsy
Reprising another role first performed by Merman, Peters starred in the acclaimed 2003 revival of Gypsy. Her performance earned her yet another Tony nomination, as well as a Drama Desk award nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Musical.
Memorable quote: “Curtain up/Light the lights/You got nothing to hit but the heights!”
2. Lily St. Regis, Annie
Peters relished the part of Lily St. Regis in the 1982 movie musical, where she got to play the role of the whiny, antagonistic Lily St. Regis alongside Tim Curry’s Rooster Hannigan and Carol Burnett’s Miss Hannigan. The trio fed off each other’s comedic energy while filming, and it shows on screen in the classic performance of “Easy Street.”
Memorable quote: “I beg your pardon, I'm sure, but I don't stoop to what you're incineratin'.”
1. The Witch, Into the Woods
In perhaps her best-known role on Broadway, Peters originated the role of the Witch in Sondheim’s Into the Woods, the musical retelling of classic fairytales. Her performance of “Last Midnight” is often held up as one of the best Broadway performances of all time.
Memorable quote: “Careful the things you say/Children will listen/Careful the things you do/Children will see.”
To borrow from another memorable Peters quote: “Anything you can do, Bernadette Peters can do better.” Don’t believe us? Come see for yourself on March 7, 2020, at Chandler Center for the Arts. Show information and tickets at chandlercenter.org.