Centennial Celebration of the Drama League Review - Honoring Bernadette Peters

I had the great pleasure of covering the Centennial Celebration of the Drama League on Nov. 2nd. There are 2 reasons this event is so special.  One is that the Drama League is an organization  dedicated to creating transformative interactions between artists and audiences…above and beyond the performances they experience.  They harness this fruitful, essential engagement of the theater maker and the theater advocate to enhance the professional, personal and creative development of artists; to improve the quality of new work for the stage; and to imbue audiences with a richer, more informed experience. 

Bernadette Peters - Photo Courtesy of Ellen Eichelbaum - Splash Magazine

The second reason this was such a special event was this night Bernadette Peters was being honored for all the great works she’s done throughout her entire career.   Over 600 celebrities of Broadway and beyond attended this black-tie event to honor one of the most talented actors of our time.

Bernadette Peters & Gloria Estefan - Photo Courtesy of Ellen Eichelbaum, Splash Magazine

From the moment you walked into the door you could feel the love in the air.  Ms. Peters was among her friends.  They honored her with a champagne toast and you could hear the whispers among her friends, talking about how much they love and appreciate her.

The event was held in the glorious ballroom of the infamous Plaza Hotel.  During dinner video clips from her outstanding career were being shown.  Carol Burnett, a friend of Ms. Peters for many years, gave a verbal love note to her good friend.

Regarded by many as the foremost interpreter of the works of Stephen Sondheim,  Peters is particularly noted for her roles on the Broadway stage, including in the musicals Mack and Mabel, Sunday in the Park with George,  Song and Dance,  Into the Woods, Annie Get Your Gun and Gypsy.

Scenes from these great shows included her outstanding performance of “Its Mama’s Turn” from Gypsy; you could hear a pin drop until everyone shouted with applause.

Michael Douglas gave a warm introduction speech to outline the evening and recognize Ms. Peters’ achievements. 

Michael Douglas - Photo Courtesy of OandM

Tom Wopat and company, who starred with Ms. Peters in Annie Get Your Gun was there to do a musical tribute of, “There’s no Business like Show Business,” one of the greatest songs of all time still sung today and will be for generations to come.

Tom Wopat & Co. - Photo Courtesy of O and M

Joel Grey, a great icon of Broadway, performed his tribute to Ms. Peters’ singing; “Give my Regards to Broadway” another timeless classic that will go on forever.  Ms. Peters jumped up from her seat as her friends and co-stars continued on to give her personal and professional tributes.  Goria Estefan, a good friend, also gave a heartfelt tribute.

 

Bernadette Peters & Annaleigh Ashford - Photo Courtest of Ellen Eichelbaum, Splash Magazine

Annaleigh Ashford, who is currently Sylvia the dog in Sylvia, sang a beautiful tribute song while cuddling Bill Berloni’s little dog.  Mr. Berloni is THE dog trainer to the pups who appear in Broadway shows.  I had a chance to talk to Mr. Berloni as his little guy was falling asleep.  “Too much action,” I said to him.  “He’d rather be on the couch,” Mr. Berloni said.  Who wouldn’t?

Ms. Peters, along with Mary Tyler Moore, founded Broadway Barks, an extremely worthy cause for our four-legged friends who are brought out from the shelters and given loving homes.

There were two unforgettable performances that I will not soon forget and from the reactions of all who attended, they will stay in their minds for a long time to come.

Ms. Peters starred in the off-Broadway production of Dames at Sea in 1968.  Currently on Broadway is the 2015 production featuring Lesli Margherita, Danny Gardner, Eloise Kropp, Cary Tedder and John Bolton.  This special performance brought the original cast and the present cast together.   The original cast included, David Christmas, Steve Elmore, Joseph Sicari and Sally Stark.

Orignial cast and present cast of Dames at Sea - Photo Courtesy of - Ellen Eichelbaum, Splash Magazine

The closing number from Sunday in the Park with George, Sunday, froze everyone in their seats.  As these talented men were scattered throughout the ballroom and the stage, the harmonious, dynamic sounds of their voices memorialized this song. 

Gay Men's Chorus - Photos Courtesy of Ellen Eichelbaum, Splash Magazine

Ms. Peters so graciously accepted her award that it took her several minutes to compose herself at the end of the evening as she was so moved by all the performers who honored her career.  At 67, she is as beautiful as she was when she was 17.  I can tell you that because I had the honor of speaking with her for a few moments and she was absolutely perfect.  I thanked her for all the entertainment she has given over the years and she was sincerely appreciative.

Bernadette Peters - Photo Courtesy of Ellen Eichelbaum, Splash Magazine

I also had the opportunity to speak with the original and presents casts of Dames at Sea.  I had seen the play just one day before this event and I was still excited to talk about the experience.  It was quite amazing to see 47 years of performances between the two casts..

Here’s to you, Bernadette Peters, for all you have done, all you continue to do, and all you will do in the future.  Let’s all raise a glass!

 

More information on the gala.

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