August 9, 2010

Bernadette Peters and Phyllis Newman

Dear followers, readers – last time I finished with the phrase I made up on the spot “to be continued”.

We were speaking of the kind of talent that fills you with joy and yet makes you cry. The first example was Paul McCartney and now I want to rave on and on about Bernadette Peters.

I saw her a week ago Sunday (which was the official re-opening) in A Little Night Music. The response to her has been well deservedly rapturous – she’s all that and more. But as with so many experiences I’m trying to communicate to you – the “now” jumps to “then” and “in between”.  I’m remembering 1971 spending a hell of a lot of time “trying out” in Boston but not a lot of time playing on Broadway with Bernadette in the first Broadway revival of On The Town.

Ron Field

Dancers came and went – some actors ditto. This fabled show just wasn’t happening. B.P. was perfect as Hildy, Donna McKechnie wonderful as Ivy, but yours truly felt wildly miscast as Claire DeLoone (the part Betty Comden played originally).

Hubs Adolph and his partner Betty not only wrote the books and lyrics, with music of course by genius Leonard Bernstein, they wrote two juicy parts for themselves. No fools they.

Day and night Betty, Adolph and Lenny sat in the front row – watching, taking notes, whispering loudly to one another. Once I thought I heard someone saying, “She’s killing our baby,” but surely it was my imagination on speed.

Lenny, Betty, and Adolph

Excuse me, but I have to stop writing this part - my Xanax supply is dwindling too quickly. Anyway, wait for the movie by M. Night Shyamalan and Todd Solondz.

Point? Bernadette was simply a great pal and colleague all through an unusual and difficult time for me. She was encouraging – she let me watch her tweeze her eyebrows. The truth – I don’t know if I was good or bad in the show – I only know I was uncomfortable and that’s very honestly not my usual mojo. (I don’t know what that word means, but it’s in my ear – so be it). I felt better when Bernadette was in the same scene or song. You’ve all seen those warm and honest eyes – well, they haven’t changed in lo these forty years. Not that she’s a miss goody two-shoes. She’s a centered, smart, funny “life enhancer”. She listens, she pays attention and she gets it. She’s strong, she’s committed and she helped me adopt my perfect dog Georgie Girl from the ASPCA.

Consequently I cried – (folks, that is after all our theme) at her radiant talent and skill last Sunday. She is an original artist.

Bernadette Peters in A Little Night Music
Photo by Joan Marcus

I don’t know about you, but when I get really bad news or something terrible happens I dry up – I’m still – I’m like a stone. So, does this joyous crying have a lot of history in it that’s coming out? Has it to do with the amount of years you’ve lived? Does it matter? Why do I quote Sondheim so often?
“Children and Art” 
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I will go a bit further in my gushing than you did, Ms. Newman,and tell you that there is nothing about Bernadette Peters I don't love. From the first time I saw her on All in the Family" all those years ago, to briefly meeting her one hot summer night in a Little Italy Street festival around 1986 (I was one of the vendors, selling sunglasses; she was with Red Buttons. It was a divine moment for me!). I have been enamored with her beauty both spiritual and physical, and her talent for literally decades! I now live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, butt I will most likely fly in just to see her in this production. She is timeless and as close to a flawless being as I have ever seen.
1:24pm 08/12/2010
i saw that production of ON THE TOWN once and second acted it about 15 times. seeing the two of you singing SOME OTHER TIME was just glorious.
8:38pm 08/11/2010
robert ellowitz
Thanks for that...loved your story...I still believe BP was robbed of her Tony for 'Gypsy"...and have loved her in everything I've seen her in...I have tix to see her in ALNM on 9/15/10...so I cannot wait...Phyllis, we sat right behind you at the Florence Henderson concert (you were with Tyne Daly and others)...but were SO nice to us as fans...talking, chatting and laughing at us all knowing the words to the Brady Bunch...Thanks for being you...Love, gerard
6:18pm 08/10/2010
Gerard King