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Picking Sondheim over swabs

If Bernadette Peters had trusted an aptitude test years ago, she might have become a nurse. It would have been Broadway's loss.

October 08, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Award-winning Broadway star Bernadette Peters will debut at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts on Friday.
Award-winning Broadway star Bernadette Peters will… (Handout, Daily…)

Bernadette Peters' skills lie in hygiene — or so an aptitude test indicated when she was 16.

What could she have done with that? she mused.

Become a nurse? A dental hygienist, perhaps?

But theater lovers everywhere owe Peters' mother a debt of gratitude for noticing her daughter's gift for entertaining and encouraging her to enter show business.

"I think it was meant to be," the New York City-based performer said. "I used to sing and hum around the house too much to be anything else. I love music."

Peters will perform at the 2,000-seat Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall at 8 p.m. Friday. Her inaugural performance will be accompanied by an ensemble comprising a piano, drums, bass and more.

Terry Dwyer, president of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, considers himself "fortunate" because he watched Peters portray the witch in Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods" — a musical from which he hopes to hear at least one song live.

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"We can thank the calendar stars that aligned beautifully to make this possible," he quipped. "How lucky for us to have Bernadette Peters open our cabaret season?"

The venue is also poised to host notables including Pattie LuPone, Maureen McGovern, Marilyn Maye, Clint Holmes, Peter Gallagher and Jimmy Webb as part of its 2013-14 series.

Dwyer, who has followed Peters' creative trajectory and is awaiting the upcoming event with bated breath, has found that ticket sales are booming.

"First of all, she's genuine," he said. "She has that ability to capture her audiences and take them with her, whether it's a full performance or a night of songs.... She has that magic ability to captivate and hold the stage. As we've heard it said, she has it all. Bernadette Peters has talent, class, charisma and star power."

The singer, whose tour begins in Costa Mesa and leads to Northridge, Seattle and Oregon, picks up on obvious differences between Broadway acts and shows, like the one at Segerstrom.

"On Broadway, you're playing a character," she said. "There's a fourth wall — you don't look at the audience."

By contrast, she joins the viewers while in concert.

"We are all in the four walls together to have this lovely musical experience," Peters said.

In Orange County, her set list will include favorites by Sondheim as well as the musical theater writing team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.

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