Bernadette Peters, who appears Tuesday night with the San Francisco Symphony, has gone to the dogs. No, the beautiful singer-actress has not lost her looks or experienced a career nose-dive. She's simply living a passion as strong as the one she feels for performing — a passion for man's best friend.
Fifteen years ago, while starring in a Tony-winning revival of "Annie Get Your Gun," Peters founded Broadway Barks with her friend Mary Tyler Moore. Pulling off that first rescue and adoption event on Broadway's famed Shubert Alley was a challenge.
"We were so lucky to have Broadway Cares produce it for us," she says. "By now we've sort of figured out how to do it, although there's always something that people forget," she laughs.
She has written two Barks books and the organization raises funds through poster and jewelry sales, but Peters is quick to say, "This is not a business. It's a passion."
It's also a mission. She'd like to see New York become a no-kill city for pets.
"It's one of the few places where people can still be barbarians. We have too many pets? Just kill 'em!" She also frowns on the purchase of pets. "If everyone would just adopt, we'd have no shelters and no euthanasia."
Peters herself is a relatively new doggy mommy. She lost her beloved Kramer last summer, after 16 years, and would have waited longer before welcoming a new family member except that Stella, her 15-year-old pit bull, was grieving the loss deeply.
"She'd be like yelling at me and then she pushed his mat up against the front door and slept there for about a week, waiting for him to come back," she recalls. "One morning she woke me up at about 5 a.m. and was crying and looking at his bed. I thought, OK, I better start looking."
Peters often visits animal shelters while touring — she speaks highly of Muttville, the senior dog rescue program in San Francisco — and while visiting Texas recently she started a new chapter in her shaggy dog stories.
"There was a 6-month-old puppy there that reminded me of Kramer, so we drove him home. Stella became serene again," Peters says. "She's got arthritis, but I gave Charlie a bath this weekend and he ran out on the terrace and she was right after him chasing him around."
Fresh off the series "Smash," Peter has no immediate career plans beyond concert engagements. "You never know what's going to come into your life and when," she says. "We'll have to wait and see."
IF YOU GOBernadette Peters
Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Tickets: $40 to $72
Contact: (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org