By Isa Goldberg
Who was it, who just weeks ago uttered that despairing thought, “It’s like I’m loosing my mind.”? Appearing as herself (and not as Sally Plummer in the Broadway revival of “Follies”), Bernadette Peters was glowing at the New Dramatists 63rd Anniversary Spring Luncheon on Thursday, May 24th.
Watching Peters pose for a gang of photographers is to experience the grace of some delicate choreography. Generous. Warm. Full of heart. A cast of luminaries from Michael Cerveris to Judith Light lined up to pose with Peters. Her quiet and relaxed manner highlights her understated charm. Bernadette Peters may be Broadway’s favorite diva, but it seems so easy and effortless for her this afternoon, as she radiates through the otherwise gloomy rainy day.
The conversations around us ran from emerging playwrights (the New Dramatists’ mission) to dogs (Ms. Peters’ best selling book, “Broadway Barks”) to champagne (flowing at the Marriot Marquis) to Hunter boots (some still soaking). Of course, the ballroom was filled with talent: Jennifer Tilly extolled for her poker skills; Angela Lansbury for other, more traditional gifts.
The toasts to the honoree rang out in song from John Dossett, Elaine Stritch and Joel Grey, in exhortations of puckish humor from Jim Dale, in exquisite admiration from Daryl Roth, and with loquacious words from the New Dramatists’ Artistic Director, Todd London. Even Stephen Sondheim appeared in video on his way to Shanghai to lament his absence, “I love you,” he said, “but I wanted to eat Chinese.”
It was nostalgia at its very best as Peters was remembered for her early roles at Caffé Cino in the Greenwich Village of the 1960’s where she starred in “Dames at Sea,” singing “just got off the bus and I want to be in a Broadway show.” While June Havoc (Gypsy Rose Lee) was remembered for finding the New Dramatists their home, an old church where they continue to live and work. It was Peters’ portrayal of Mama Rose Lee in “Gypsy,” that earned her one of seven Tony nods, bringing us yet another link from the past to the present.
How quickly a mellow lunch ends. Gulping our last cup of coffee, we run off, still basking from the afternoon into the rain.