There were many critics of Carrie Underwood and NBC's recent live production of "The Sound of Music," but Broadway legend Bernadette Peters was not one of them.
Bringing theater to the masses is a noble venture for television, she said in a phone interview to promote her New Year's Eve concert in Park City. Most are not lucky enough to have seen a Broadway musical, or even community theater, so seeing a new version of songs such as "My Favorite Things" and "Do-Re-Mi" exposes people from Scranton to Bakersfield to the thrill of live theater.
"People want music," Peters, 65, said of the TV special, which was staged more like a play than a film. "They really are starved."
Peters certainly knows her way around all media, including Broadway (where she has been nominated for a Tony seven times), film ("The Jerk," "Annie" and "Pennies from Heaven," in which she won a Golden Globe), television ("The Muppet Show," "The Carol Burnett Show" and, most recently, "Smash"), and on record, where, among other things, she is known for being one of the finest interpreters of the work of Stephen Sondheim.
Peters was born Bernadette Lazzara in a Sicilian-American family in Queens, N.Y.,eventually taking her stage surname from the name of her father. Since then, she has dazzled.
The New Year's Eve concert is the first to be presented by the Park City Institute, which recently changed its name from the Park City Performing Arts Foundation. PCPAF was founded in 1994 and was known for bringing world-class entertainment to Park City, including memorable NYE shows by the likes of Jewel and the Wainwright Family in recent years.
"Bernadette Peters is the real … deal," said Teri Orr, executive director of the Park City Institute. "She sings and tells stories and weaves a web of magic with her charm and incredible pipes. She makes each song a story and each story a song. Stephen Sondheim wrote musicals with her in mind. And she wears a Bob Mackie gown just the way he designed it to look. She is funny, which often surprises first-time audience members. And if she hasn't made you cry at least once in the evening, she hasn't done her job."
The Broadway siren is no stranger to Utah, having performed with the Utah Symphony at Abravanel Hall in 1996 and 2007, and in 2006 she performed at the Eccles Center. She plans on enjoying a day or two around the area when she arrives in several days. "I wouldn't take a chance to go skiing," she said. "My duty is the show."
Peters has performed many variations of her solo show over the years, and she doesn't like the idea of phoning in a bland retrospective of her career. "There are no rules," she said of her show. "I basically do songs that I love singing and things I can connect to."
What will be included are some selections from her more recent stage history, including the Broadway revival of Sondheim's "A Little Night Music" (in which she replaced Catherine Zeta-Jones) from July 2010 to January 2011, and a Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts production of the Sondheim-Goldman musical "Follies" later in 2011.
After the curtains come up in Park City, Peters said she will retire to her room to watch Kathy Griffin cover the Times Square celebrations for CNN. She doesn't make resolutions, and doesn't really have a New Year's Eve tradition, she said: "I try not to have traditions because I am always in a different place."
When • Tuesday, Dec. 31, 8 p.m.
Where • Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City
Tickets • $40-$165; available at The Eccles Center box office, 435-655-3114 or www.ecclescenter.org.