Bernadette Peters on Stephen Sondheim: ‘He’s Our Shakespeare’


The Tony-winning Broadway icon Bernadette Peters has long been considered one of the foremost performers of composer Stephen Sondheim‘s work. But as Peters revealed in the latest episode of “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast, it wasn’t quite love at first sight when she initially performed his tunes. It was more like love at second sight.

Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:

In a “Stagecraft” episode recorded in front of a live audience on the Broadway Cruise, Peters recalled her earliest rehearsals for her first collaboration with Sondheim in “Sunday in the Park With George.” (Still to come: “Into the Woods,” “Follies,” “A Little Night Music” and more.) The first number they rehearsed was the complicated and challenging opening number: “I had to feel my way through,” she remembered. “A lot of breath control, a lot of words, a lot to remember. That made me very nervous.”

“But then,” she continued, “the second number we worked on was ‘Color and Light,’ where [co-star] Mandy Patinkin was painting and I was powdering, and I just fell in love with the show when we were rehearsing that song. It was just so beautiful. It swept me away.”

By now, Peters has played (and in some cases originated) so many of the greatest parts in the musical theater canon that she doesn’t count any roles on her bucket list. “I think I’ve done most of them,” she said. “I guess the only last one I haven’t done is Mrs. Lovett in ‘Sweeney Todd,’ but you know, I have to be honest, I was never drawn to it.”

However, she added, another role in that show does appeal to her: “Oh, I’d play Sweeney Todd!”

Also on the new “Stagecraft,” Peters remembered her first brushes with fame; shared her pride in the long-running charity she co-founded, Broadway Barks; and offered a prediction on how Sondheim’s legacy will endure.

“For me, he’s our Shakespeare,” she said. “That’s how I feel about it and I think that’s how he’ll be remembered for hundreds of years.”

To hear the entire conversation, listen at the link above or download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and the Broadway Podcast Network. New episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every other week.



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