Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Celebrating 80 Years of Musical Theater with honoree, Bernadette Peters

As a non-profit theater, Westport Country Playhouse relies on donations to support over half the work we do each year. Nearly a third of that support is raised in just one night, at our annual Gala. This is the first in a series of installments that will give you a behind-the-scenes peek on the preparations for this year’s event.

On a Monday night this September, when Broadway theaters are dark, the Westport Country Playhouse will be brighter than ever, illuminated by the star power of our annual Gala.

On September 19, this year’s Gala, “Playing Our Songs, Celebrating 80 Years of Musical Theater at the Playhouse,” will pay tribute to our rich tradition of musicals, featuring not only songs from the shows that have played here, but also a talented group of Broadway friends who will return to our historic theater for one night only. Planning to attend the Gala will be former Playhouse Artistic Director Joanne Woodward, past honoree Stephen Schwartz, as well as Alumni Artists Lucie Arnaz, Laurence Luckinbill, James Naughton, Christopher Plummer and Jane Powell.

We are particularly excited to welcome back Bernadette Peters, who will be honored with our Distinguished Dedication and Service to the American Musical Theater Award. Peters first appeared on the Playhouse stage in 1966 as the love interest in the little-known John Jennings musical Riverwind, a production that toured area summer stock theaters. Just a year after her appearance at the Playhouse, Peters made her Broadway debut in the short-lived play Johnny No-Trump before going on to star as Josie Cohan opposite Joel Gray in George M! , a performance that won Peters a Theatre World Award. That same year, she also received a Drama Desk Award for her show stopping performance in the smash hit off-Broadway musical Dames at Sea.

Peters would go on to win Best Actress Tonys for her performances in Song and Dance and Annie Get Your Gun, but she is perhaps best known on Broadway for her work in the musicals of Stephen Sondheim (a former Playhouse apprentice and 2006 Gala honoree). She originated the roles of Dot/Marie in Sunday in the Park With George in 1984 and the Witch in Into the Woods in 1987. Just this year, she appeared on Broadway as Desiree Armfeldt in A Little Night Music opposite Elaine Stritch and starred in the Kennedy Center’s highly acclaimed production of Follies, which will transfer to Broadway later this summer.

Peters most recently appeared on the Playhouse stage presenting a tribute to Angela Lansbury during the 2008 Gala. This year, the roles will be reversed as an ensemble of Broadway’s best and brightest—whose names will be announced in the coming weeks—will honor Peters through song and dance.

To join all these celebrated Playhouse alumni for our annual Gala, click to purchase tickets here. In addition to being a spectacular party and show, the Gala is the Playhouse’s most important fundraising event of the year, and your attendance will help ensure that the Playhouse can continue to create quality productions of both musicals and plays for years to come. We are counting on your generosity to make our Gala a success!

Photo by Firooz Zahedi

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