Biography

American actress Bernadette Peters was a five-year-old performer on Horn and Hardart's kiddie-talent radio program, and by age 11 was appearing on Broadway in Most Happy Fella. Peters achieved national fame in 1968 with her campy performance as Ruby, the 1930s-style chorus girl protagonist of the off-Broadway musical pastiche Dames at Sea. The role demonstrated only one aspect of her talents, but nonetheless threatened to typecast her as a squeaky-voiced dumb blonde. Bernadette scuttled that stereotype herself as leading lady in the 1969 Joel Grey musical George M. The following year she played Mabel Normand opposite Robert Preston's Mack Sennett in the musical comedy Mack and Mabel, which, though a failure, has become a staple of community theatres. (The amateur Mabels have an ongoing tendency to imitate Bernadette Peters). In 1976, Peters costarred with Richard Crenna on All's Fair, a Norman Lear TV sitcom that showed neither star to best advantage. Reluctant to leave her native New York City, Peters has nonetheless occasionally travelled to Hollywood for an off-and-on movie career. Hilarious as a babaloo-ing cabaret entertainer in Silent Movie (1976), the actress was even better as the long-suffering wife of goony Steve Martin in The Jerk (1977). She was reunited with Martin in Pennies From Heaven (1981), an uneven but fascinating attempt to juxtapose the fanatasies of 1930s popular music with the grim realities of Depression life. Offscreen, her relationship with Martin was intensely romantic for several years. Feeling unfulfilled in Hollywood, Bernadette Peters returned to Broadway in the mid 1980s, reclaiming her Dames at Sea prominence tenfold in such musicals as Sunday in the Park With George, Song and Dance, and Into the Woods, nearly unrecognizable in the latter in her heavy makeup as the wizened witch of "Hansel and Gretel" fame. Although she would became known primarily for her work on the stage, she would continue to appear on film and TV in a variety of projects such as Slaves of New York, opposite Clint Eastwood in Pink Cadillac, Woody Allen's Alice, and It Runs From the Family. She had a short recurring role on Ally McBeal, and also lent her voice to a number of animated projects including 2012's Dorothy of Oz. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi