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Bernadette Peters (1948)

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Bernadette Peters is an American actress, singer and children's book author from Ozone Park, Queens, New York. Over the course of a career that has spanned five decades, she has starred in musical theatre, films and television, as well as performing in solo concerts and recordings. She is one of the most critically acclaimed Broadway performers, having received nominations for seven Tony Awards, winning two, and eight Drama Desk Awards, winning three. Four of the Broadway cast albums on which she has starred have won Grammy Awards.

Regarded by many as the foremost interpreter of the works of Stephen Sondheim, Peters is particularly noted for her roles on the Broadway stage, including Mack and Mabel, Sunday in the Park with George, Song and Dance, Into the Woods and Annie Get Your Gun.

Peters first performed on the stage as a child and then a teenage actor in the 1960s, and in film and television in the 1970s. She was praised for this early work and for appearances on The Muppet Show, The Carol Burnett Show and in other television work, and for her roles in films like Silent Movie, The Jerk, Pennies from Heaven and Annie. In the 1980s, she returned to the theatre, where she became one of the best-known Broadway stars over the next three decades. She also has recorded six solo albums and several singles, as well as many cast albums, and performs regularly in her own solo concert act. Peters also continues to act in films and on television, where she has been nominated for three Emmy Awards and three Golden Globe Awards, winning once.

  Biography  

 early life and career
Peters was born Bernadette Lazzara to an Italian-American family in Ozone Park, Queens, New York, the youngest of three children. Her siblings are casting director Donna DeSeta and Joseph Lazzara. Her father Peter drove a bread delivery truck, and her mother, Marguerite (née Maltese), started her in show business by putting her on the television show Juvenile Jury at the age of three-and-a-half. She appeared on the television shows Name That Tune and several times on The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour at age five.


In January 1958, at age nine, she obtained her Actors Equity Card in the name of Bernadette Peters to avoid ethnic stereotyping, with the stage name taken from her father's first name. She made her professional stage debut the same month in This is Goggle, a comedy directed by Otto Preminger that closed during out-of-town tryouts before reaching New York. She then appeared on NBC television as Anna Stieman in A Boy Called Ciske, a Kraft Mystery Theatre production, in May 1958, and in a vignette entitled "Miracle in the Orphanage", part of "The Christmas Tree", a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, in December 1958 with fellow child actor Richard Thomas and veteran actors Jessica Tandy and Margaret Hamilton. She first appeared on the New York stage at age 10 as Tessie in the New York City Center revival of The Most Happy Fella . In her teen years, she attended the Quintano's School for Young Professionals, a now defunct private school that several famous people, such as Steven Tyler, attended.


At age 13, Peters appeared as one of the "Hollywood Blondes" and was an understudy for "Dainty June" in the second national tour of Gypsy. During this tour, Peters first met her long-time accompanist, conductor and arranger Marvin Laird, who was the assistant conductor for the tour. Laird recalled, "I heard her sing an odd phrase or two and thought, 'God that's a big voice out of that little girl,'" The next summer, she played Dainty June in summer stock, and in 1962 she recorded her first single. In 1964, she played Leisl in The Sound of Music and Jenny in Riverwind in summer stock at the Mt. Gretna Playhouse , and Riverwind again at the Bucks County Playhouse in 1966. Upon graduation from high school, she started working steadily, appearing Off-Broadway in the musicals The Penny Friend and Curley McDimple and as a standby on Broadway in The Girl in the Freudian Slip . She made her Broadway debut in Johnny No-Trump in 1967, and next appeared as George M. Cohan's sister opposite Joel Grey in George M! , winning the Theatre World Award.

It was Peters' performance as "Ruby" in the 1968 Off-Broadway production of Dames at Sea, a parody of 1930s musicals, that brought her critical acclaim and her first Drama Desk Award. She had appeared in an earlier 1966 version of Dames at Sea at the Off-Off-Broadway performance club Caffe Cino. Peters had starring roles in her next Broadway vehicles—Gelsomina in La Strada and Hildy in On the Town , for which she received her first Tony Award nomination. She played Mabel Normand in Mack and Mabel , receiving another Tony nomination. Clive Barnes wrote: "With the splashy Mack & Mabel ... diminutive and contralto Bernadette Peters found herself as a major Broadway star." Although these had short runs, Peters was singled out for praise by the critics, and the Mack and Mabel cast album became popular among musical theatre fans. She moved to Los Angeles in the early 1970s to concentrate on television and film work.

 personal life
Peters married investment adviser Michael Wittenberg on July 20, 1996 at the upstate New York home of long-time friend Mary Tyler Moore. Wittenberg died at age 43 on September 26, 2005 in a helicopter crash in Montenegro while on a business trip.

Peters has two dogs, a mixed-breed dog named Kramer and an American pit bull terrier named Stella, both adopted from shelters. Peters' goddaughter Isabelle and Kramer were the inspirations for the characters in her first children's book, Broadway Barks, and Stella inspired the title character of her second children's book, Stella is a Star.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Bernadette Peters", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.