The good-natured Bernadette Peters and the ever-candid, theatrical dynamo Elaine Stritch have become unlikely friends since rehearsals began for their run in the Tony-nominated revival of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's A Little Night Music.
As anyone who has even the remotest interest in musical theatre knows, Tony winners Peters and Stritch succeeded Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury, respectively, in the roles of the captivating Desirée Armfeldt and her worldly-wise mother Madame Armfeldt at the Walter Kerr Theatre.
Both Peters and Stritch are major Sondheim interpreters—Peters created leading roles in Sondheim and Lapine's Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods and also brought new dimension to the role of stage mother Rose in the Sondheim-Arthur Laurents-Jule Styne classic Gypsy; Stritch created the role of Joanne in Sondheim's Company, belted out "Broadway Baby" in Follies in Concert, and recently completed two engagements at the Cafe Carlyle in Singin' Sondheim…One Song at a Time. They spoke with Playbill just days before their eagerly awaited return to Broadway.
Although the actors had never shared a Broadway stage, Stritch said, "I dig her. On both sides of the fence—I dig her in the theatre, I dig her out of the theatre. I don't know her well, but I know that she's OK. I know she's OK. I can tell by looking at her. I can tell by meeting her socially. And, she's an actress. I told her today that she should really go after playing Blanche [in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire]."
Peters returns the sentiment: "I love her, too. I just think she's brilliant, and I admire her so much. Her talent is enormous, and she's so smart. And I also admire her [and] love her as a person, too. So we have a mutual support going back and forth, which is just wonderful and lovely."
Stritch also believes she and Peters are "very much alike, and we're finding things every day in playing the parts. She's got the same kind of humor that I do. Our sense of humor—I love that expression—it's a sense of humor, a deep sense of humor, and I see it in her. That happens once in a while in acting. You get in a company, and you're playing opposite someone who is like you, so you're on the same page, so to speak. And she goes very deep as far as humor is concerned . . . . but it's not getting in the way, it's adding, I think. I'm just sad that I don't have more material with her, but the times we have together pay off."