One of the biggest Broadway stars of her era, Bernadette Peters
was widely acclaimed as the finest singing actress to come along since Barbra Streisand
. Born Bernadette Lazzara
on February 28, 1948, in New York City, she began singing and dancing while a toddler, and was already a member of Actors' Equity by the age of nine. By 1959, having adopted the stage name Peters
, she appeared in a revival of The Most Happy Fella, subsequently co-starring in a road tour of Gypsy; however, she then retired from performing for a time, extensively studying acting and singing during her late-teen years.
In 1968, Peters
won a Theatre World citation for her performance in George M!; that same year, she also garnered a Drama Desk Award for her comedic turn in the off-Broadway spoof Dames at Sea. During the late '60s and early '70s, however, she suffered a series of theatrical disappointments, among them productions of On the Town, La Strada, W.C., and Mack and Mabel; as a result, by the mid-'70s she was also regularly appearing in film and television roles. Peters
' Hollywood breakthrough arrived in 1979 opposite co-star Steve Martin
in The Jerk; two years later, they reunited for the fascinating flop Pennies from Heaven.
Returning to Broadway, she reached new peaks of success as the star of a pair of Stephen Sondheim
musicals, 1984's Sunday in the Park with George and 1987's Into the Woods; for her work in Andrew Lloyd Webber
's Song and Dance, Peters
earned a Tony Award. During the late '80s, she mounted a hit cabaret act, which focused largely on show tunes but also included an effective cover of Hank Williams
' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." After a disappointing return to Hollywood, Peters
reappeared on Broadway in 1993, starring in The Goodbye Girl; however, the show closed after less than 200 performances.