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Bernadette does Tulsa

Tony Winner to headline send-off of Barry Epperley

Bernadette Peters comes to Tulsa May 22 for a performance with the Signature Symphony // courtesy, Andrew Eccles

The Tony Award winner and Broadway star Bernadette Peters joins Tulsa’s Signature Symphony on May 22 for a concert that is both a benefit and a retirement celebration for long-time director Dr. Barry Epperley. Epperley has been a fixture in the performing arts community in northeast Oklahoma for decades, and retires from his position as Conductor and Artistic Director of the Signature Symphony at Tulsa Community College in July. The black-tie gala is Thursday, May 22, at the Cox Business Center in downtown Tulsa.

Do you prefer music, movies, or television as a performer? Words. Whatever the words are. I am drawn to the script. I am there to learn and to impart to the audience the why, to explore, to engage in a human experience. When I was little, I was singing in front of the TV. I was 8 years old and on a show called “Name That Tune,” and I had these songs in my head, I don't know how, but I could recognize them. And I was the first child to win, $1000 or whatever it was. I have the privilege to sing to people and to think about, to be reminded of something. I love the comedic and the dramatic. The point is, I understand I am there to entertain. I like to go really deep. When I was doing Gypsy, I was 13, and my mother and my sister were on the road with me. My sister and I were both understudies, and we were mirroring Gypsy. It was interesting, and I think I learned a lot from that experience.

Did you understand what you were learning at the time? Not at all. Not until now.

What was a project you loved that didn't get as much attention as you'd have liked? I did an Encore of Steve's (Stephen Sondheim) music reinterpreted by Wynton Marsalis. People had a problem with that. At first, they didn't want to hear that. Then, more and more people grew to like it. But it was one weekend only. Steve was excited. I loved the idea, to sing with Wynton Marsalis.

Where are your awards? (laughs) Oh. I don't know. They're here, in the office. Are they on the desk? In the bookshelves? I try not to make awards important. I can't be defined by them. It is nice to be nominated; that is more of a recognition than anything.

What are your current projects? I'm writing my third children's book, "How Stella Gets a Friend." All of my books are about my animals. I am working on a series for amazon.com, about a symphony, and I play the part of managing the organization. And Broadway Barks.

What is Broadway Barks? Oh. My true passion. I was 9 when we got a dog, and I had begged and begged for it. When I was doing “Annie Get Your Gun,” our show raised the most money for Broadway Cares, so we started Broadway Barks. It has been going on for 16 years. Broadway stars bring city shelter dogs on stage and try to get them adopted. Now we're up to 27 shows. We bring vans from shelters all along Broadway. Tulsa could do that. You just need the companies to get together, a sound system, and a district. Companion animals have been so important to me.

Have you been to Tulsa? I have been to Tulsa, a few times. It's been a long time, but it is a wonderful city, with a lovely appreciation for my work.

Have you worked with Mr. Epperley? I have not, no. But his Signature Symphony is a great thing. Singing with symphony members is going on a beautiful experience together. Notes on their own are a vibration. Music can change your mood. I love classical musical for that reason. There are 12 notes, but we can put them together in such a way...it is a very special thing by someone who was inspired to write that down.