Bernadette Peters, Broadway legend with passion for dogs
By KARA YORIO STAFF WRITER | The Record
Some celebrities lend their names to a cause. Others show up for an event or pose for promotional material. That is not Bernadette Peters' way.
Almost 15 years ago, the Broadway legend joined with Mary Tyler Moore to start Broadway Barks, a foundation that raises awareness about the plight of shelter dogs and the possibilities for adoption. Since then, not only has Peters shown up at the annual adoption event in Broadway's Shubert Alley, she has spent years actually picking up dogs from kill shelters and bringing them to safety at a shelter in Brooklyn. Now she also works online, identifying dogs that need to be helped, arranging transportation and sometimes hooking up well-known friends with dogs she thinks would be perfect for them.
"More than anybody I know, she's involved," says Judy Katz, a Bergen County resident and Peters' longtime publicist. "Someone will tell her about a dog and she'll go get it, she'll make phone calls." Peters will bring her other passion – performing – to Englewood for a concert on Thursday.
Kicking off a charity
Katz was there from the beginning of Broadway Barks, when Peters, who was starring in "Annie Get Your Gun" on Broadway, said at a meeting in Katz's office that she wanted to help shelter dogs. Over the years, Katz has been involved with the foundation and has seen the dedication of Peters and Moore and the impact of the program, especially the annual event.
At the bergenPAC show, pre-signed copies of Peters' two children's books, "Broadway Barks" and "Stella the Star," which are about her dogs Kramer and Stella, will be available in the lobby, with proceeds going to the charity. Peters came up with the stories herself and even wrote a song for each one. She doesn't have plans for a third, but maybe a few more flights and she'll get inspired.
"I write these songs and these books when I'm in an airplane, up in the sky," she says. "These things start coming out, it's bizarre."
The books are just a small part of her almost daily contribution to the charity. In addition to Broadway Barks, Peters is active in Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. In June, she received the Isabelle Stevenson Award at the Tony Awards for her charitable work.
Taking a break from the eight-shows-a-week Broadway grind, Peters will also return to television's "Smash" this season.
"I go where the writing is great, whether it be onstage, in television or movies, the writing is very important to me," says Peters, who was not bothered by any leeway taken in "Smash" about creating a Broadway musical based on Marilyn Monroe's life.
"They take every dramatic thing that could happen within the context of putting on a show and put it all in every episode – [it's] heightened reality," says Peters. "We're not doing a documentary. It's about theater but it's a television show, and we have to write within the framework of a television show that you want to be successful."
At this week's concerts, fans can expect to hear a couple of songs from the Broadway show "Follies," Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Like a Dame" and "Some Enchanted Evening," along with "Fever," "When You Wish Upon a Star" and many more.
"I put songs in that I'm very connected to, and therefore, if I'm very connected, then the audience becomes connected to them," she says.
Peters does shows like the one at bergenPAC because she enjoys them.
"You get to choose what you want to sing and there's no fourth wall," she says. "We're there to entertain and have a good time and go on a musical journey, an emotional journey. I know I'm there to entertain, and that can cover many categories – something dramatic, something that makes you think, something that makes you laugh."