Actress/singer Bernadette Peters has a very simple plan for keeping her concerts fresh night after night: "I go out there and I do the best that I can. That's all I can do." Peters, a three-time Tony Award winner, brings her best to Houston for a one-night performance with the Houston Symphony. The concert includes songs from her many Broadway shows, including several by Stephen Sondheim.
"You have to start with a good show, with songs that mean something to you so that you can make them mean something to the audience. I sing "Fever," "When You Wish Upon a Star," "Some Enchanted Evening" and "Nothing Like a Dame" in the show. Each of those mean something to me. Hopefully I can get that across to the audience."
There is one special song that Peters will perform just for Houston audiences. "I'm going to sing "My Funny Valentine" in Houston because the show is so close to Valentine's."
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Along with a busy performance schedule (she just finished the television series Mozart in the Jungle and is now on tour), Peters is an active animal rights advocate and children's author. She has two animal charities - Broadway Barks and Braille Tails.
"I'm actually a rescuer - I rescue animals out of the city shelter and send them to a rescue group in Brooklyn. I rescue animals that are on the ... well, they call it 'at risk' now, but really it's the euthanasia list. And I think that's just one of the most disgusting things - to go on [the shelter's web site] and see animals that are about to be killed. 'Oh we have too many, let's just kill them.' I'm involved with that every day.
"The [Broadway Barks] show is once a year where all the celebrities come out between shows on a Saturday. They take animals up on stage and try to get them adopted. All of the songs they sing are animal related."
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At one point Peters heard about rescue animals being taken to a school for blind children for pet therapy. "I thought, wow, that's great. Then [someone] pointed out that neither of my two children's books was available in Braille." After meeting with pet therapy organizers, Peters learned that 90 percent of all blind children cannot read Braille (an unintentional byproduct of computerized learning).
"That was so shocking, that blind children can't read Braille but there aren't enough teachers, there aren't enough books. I thought they don't have the pleasure of reading, which I think is so important. Moving the words on the page into your brain and using your imagination, that's really important."
Peters was moved to help and Braille Tails was soon organized. Braille Tails translates children's books about rescue animals into Braille and sends them to schools for the blind across the country. "I'm really proud of Braille Tails; that's a group that's being ignored and it's important to not leave them out."
See Bernadette Peters in concert with the Houston Symphony at 7:30 p.m. February 13. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $39 to $155