1 to 5 Musical Theatre Month: Bernadette Peters

The link for today’s five musicals is Bernadette Peters. It goes without saying that Peters has had an incredible career on Broadway and choosing only a handful of her shows to feature here today was a tough choice. I’ve decided to go with some of her most recent appearances in musicals on Broadway, namely: Follies, A Little Night Music, Gypsy, Annie Get Your Gun and The Goodbye Girl.

1. Gypsy

Picking the show to take top honours here is difficult given that three of my favourite shows of all time appear here. Gypsy has the edge though. There’s not an ounce of fat in the score. The book is hands down one of the best Broadway has ever seen. (Well written books are all but a lost art on Broadway these days.) The integration between the two is seamless. Peters courted some controversy when she appeared in Gypsy in 2003. People either loved her or hated her in the role, and many of the naysayers debated whether or not she was miscast. While I do give the cast recording a spin from time to time, Peters isn’t my favourite Rose. Angela Lansbury is still the measuring stick.

2. Follies

Follies is a phenomenal piece of work, one that been subjected to all kinds of butchering since its original production. The most extreme of these revisions was seen in the London version of the show, but those changes were perhaps more obvious than the numerous tweaks made to the book for the Broadway revival that followed it. Peters appeared in the second Broadway revival of the show, as Sally, in the 2011-2012 season and, as with Gypsy, audiences were split about how successful her interpretation of the role was, as evidenced in the seemingly unending forum topics that were posted on sites like BroadwayWorld and All That Chat.

3. A Little Night Music

How I wish that Peters had been paired with Lansbury in the original cast of the revival of this marvellous show on Broadway. Catherine Zeta-Jones had star power and was cast for the selling power she had, but Peters and Lansbury would have been a perfect combination. (I also hated all of the stories about Elaine Stritch, opposite whom Peters was cast, going up on her words regularly. Legend or not, I don’t have sympathy for such a lack of basic professionalism.) The show itself is by turns lush and romantic and witty. It is a pity that wasn’t captured in the film adaptation. It’s a pity that with all the movie musicals going into production that a new version of A Little Night Music isn’t on the cards. It’s a well known fact that Lansbury is looking around for a great film vehicle. This could be it.

4. Annie Get Your Gun

Let’s start off by saying that the “revisal” of Annie Get Your Gun in which Peters found was something of a curate’s egg. Peters herself was a playful and sympathetic Annie, but listening to the recording is a frustrating experience because it is a reminder of the mixed results that were the end point of the good intentions that were at the core of this revival. I don’t like the show within a show framework. Some of the cuts to the score water down some of the subtleties this show can communicate about its setting and how we read its dynamics so many years later. Some of the new orchestrations are fantastic, while others stall at the gate. I guess there’s no point in getting too worked up. It was but a moment in time.

5. The Goodbye Girl

Everyone has shows that they just can’t get into. For me, The Goodbye Girl is one of those shows, the most recent Broadway musical in which Peters originated a role. The best thing I can say about the show is that it’s one of those musicals from the 1990s that tried really hard without getting anywhere at all. Whatever magical spark that brings the best musicals to life and even elevates some mediocre ones to popularity was just missing from this one. Ah well…

Every day this December, I’m choosing 5 musicals linked by a common theme and ranking them from best to worst. I’d love to see your rankings of the musicals posted each day, so head on down to the comment box and share your thoughts.

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