Bernadette Peters prefers to keep busy. She laughs about her schedule, which balances the award-winning Amazon Prime show “Mozart in the Jungle” and concerts.
“It’s nice to have choices,” Peters says. “It’s nice to be proud of what you do.”
A veteran of the Broadway stage, Peters will give a career retrospective when she joins The Phoenix Symphony Orchestra to perform favorites from the stage and The Great American Songbook during a show at the Mesa Arts Center on Saturday, October 15.
She is best known for her performances in “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Song and Dance,” “Into the Woods” and “Annie Get Your Gun.”
She is an award-winning performer who has taken home three Tony Awards and been memorialized on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
“I love my concerts, though,” Peters explains. “There’s not that fourth wall. I can say what I want, and sing what I want. Basically, I know I’m there to entertain, whether it’s in a fun way or a dramatic way. That’s the aim. That’s what’s important.
“The other thing is I also get to pick songs that other people sang. I heard these songs and I get to recall hearing them.”
Singing with orchestras is a joy for Peters, who has concerts scheduled through the end of the year.
“It’s wonderful to have a great orchestra behind you,” she says. “I have some lovely charts they enjoy. It’s great stuff for them to play. They have some solos so I get to hear that.”
Her small-screen career mimics her real life. The comedy “Mozart in the Jungle” tells the story of a symphony behind the curtains and on stage. It was created by Paul Weitz (“About a Boy”), Roman Coppola (“The Darjeeling Limited”) and Jason Schwartzman (“Rushmore”). Gael Garcia Bernal plays Rodrigo, a brash new maestro, and Lola Kirke appears as a young oboist who longs for her big break.
“Mozart in the Jungle” won the 2016 Golden Globe for best TV comedy or musical series. Peters explained that as soon as she read the script, she was interested in playing Gloria Windsor, the head of the fictitious New York Symphony.
“I always say that I like to go where the writing is good,” Peters says.
“It can be good on stage; it could be good on television; it could be good on film or it could be bad. The great part is I get to choose what I do. I could go do something else. That’s a luxury and a privilege.”
With Weitz, Coppola and Schwartzman on board, she adds, the writing is done really well. The cast also includes Malcolm McDowell.
“I’m proud of our show,” Peters says. “The symphony is great. The actors, like Gael Garcia Bernal, and it’s comedic. He won a Golden Globe for best actor. Our show won a Golden Globe.
“In this day and age there is so much that’s dark and heavy in the world in the arts and television. I’m happy our show is very good.”
A native of Ozone Park, New York, Peters began performing at age 3, with appearances on “Juvenile Jury” and “Name that Tune.”
She graced the stage for the first time in “This is Goggle,” with James Daly and Kim Hunter. While still in her teens, she appeared in “The Most Happy Fella” and “The Penny Friend,” and performed in the national touring company of “Gypsy.”
Broadway called her to the stage in 1967 for “Johnny No-Trump,” and in 1968 she earned a Theatre World Award for her portrayal of Josie Cohan in “George M!” Later that year, she took home a Drama Desk Award for “Dames at Sea.”
Since, she has become a renaissance woman of sorts. She devotes her time and talents to numerous events that benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Her “pet project” is Broadway Barks, a dog and cat adoption event benefiting New York City animal shelters and adoption agencies. It is hosted by Peters—who lives in New York City and Los Angeles with her rescue dogs, Charlie and Rosalia—and Broadway Barks’ co-founder Mary Tyler Moore.
Broadway Barks is also the name of her first book, which landed on The New York Times Bestseller List. The book package includes a CD recording of an original song written and sung by Peters.
She also penned “Stella is a Star” and “Stella and Charlie: Friends Forever.” Raising funds for pet-related issues is important to Peters.
“I’m always thinking about how to raise money,” she says.
Companionship of animals is important to humans, she adds.
“Dogs can sniff out cancer, quicker than any medical doctors sometimes and with more accuracy,” she explains. “At least we know that much. It’s a shame. People think we should be able to dispose of them.
“I’ve always loved animals. I think its innate there when it’s strong. I think a lot of people don’t realize that we’re a kill nation. I think the world doesn’t understand animals yet.”
Despite her hectic schedule, she’s not one who plans.
“How does the saying go? Man plans, God laughs?”
Bernadette Peters with The Phoenix Symphony, Mesa Arts Centers Ikeda Theater, One E. Main St., Mesa, 480.644.6500, mesaartscenter.com, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, October 15, $60-$90.