PROUD LADIES spotlights Peterson’s legendary co-stars
Last summer, Columbus theatre-lovers flew to New York to see Springer favorite Michael Stiggers make his Broadway debut in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. There was a cheering crowd waiting outside the stage door, then dinner, toasts and speeches at Sardi’s Restaurant.
Rewind fifty years. Another crowd of Springer patrons flew to New York to see a different hometown star, Victoria Mallory, debut as Maria in West Side Story at Lincoln Center. She was only 20 years old.
Her Baker High School classmates and Springer audiences knew her as Vicki Morales, a beautiful teenager with dazzling Broadway-quality talent. As predicted, she made her way to New York to pursue a professional career. In storybook fashion, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim recognized the rarity of her qualities and offered her the challenging role of Maria in their groundbreaking musical.
Playing Mallory’s true love, Tony, in West Side Story was another 20 year-old – a virile, dynamic actor named Kurt Peterson, from Stevens Point, Wisconsin. The show would launch them both to Broadway stardom and a lifetime friendship. Tony and Maria are two of the most difficult roles in musical theatre, requiring vast vocal ranges, complex choreography and passionate acting. And yet, Peterson and Mallory shook the Broadway world with their seemingly effortless command of the material.
Through West Side Story, the legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim identified Peterson and Mallory as the perfect vessels for his music and they set off fireworks in 1971 starring in Sondheim’s groundbreaking Broadway musical, Follies, together. Vicki and Kurt would spend their entire careers showcasing and celebrating Sondheim’s music, including productions of Company and Side by Side by Sondheim.
Columbus theatre buffs made countless trips to New York over the years to visit the hometown celebrity and her handsome co-star. Peterson became friends with people in Columbus and became a sort of honorary citizen.
Following the closing of West Side Story, the newly minted Broadway stars took a victory lap at the Springer in 1970 to play the lovers, Luisa and Matt, in The Fantasticks. Subsequent visits to Columbus included appearances at fundraising galas and a 2013 RiverCenter performance of Kurt and Victoria’s musical celebration of Broadway’s Golden Age, When Everything Was Possible.
In 2014, Victoria Mallory died of pancreatic cancer, a mere three weeks after her mother, Ruby, passed away in Columbus.
Now, Kurt Peterson will return to Columbus to collaborate with the Springer Opera House production team on the development of a new multi-media musical revue,
PROUD LADIES, a glittering song and dance celebration of Broadway’s legendary female superstars, including Katherine Hepburn, Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters, Angela Lansbury, and Ethel Merman.
Springer producing artistic director Paul Pierce is thrilled about working with Peterson. “Kurt Peterson is a true living legend,” Pierce said. “A living, breathing, singing and dancing star from Broadway’s classic heyday.
“He has worked with Broadway’s greatest actors, directors, choreographers and actors and I’m exciting about seeing Kurt’s story come to life on the very stage where he and Vicki Mallory appeared as Broadway’s newest stars in 1970. I appreciate Kurt trusting the Springer with this world premiere.”
Peterson’s company of artists and technicians will fly to Columbus from New York August 12 and will be in residence for a week prior to an August 17 benefit performance. He will work with Springer artists and technicians and rehearse the show in their rehearsal halls.
The August 17 world premiere of PROUD LADIES is a benefit for the Springer Opera House Historic Preservation Fund. Early Bird tickets for current Springer Society member and Springer Season Ticket Holders are $40 and go on sale via phone or in person at the Springer Box Office on Tuesday, June 19 at 10:00 a.m. There is also a limited number of VIP Ticket Packages available that includes a ticket to the performance and a post show meet and greet reception honoring Mr. Peterson in the Player’s Saloon. Champagne light hors d’oeuvres are included. Tickets for the general public go on sale Tuesday, June 26 at 10:00 a.m. Ticket prices are $48 and can be purchased by phone, in person at the Springer Box Office, or online at springeroperahouse.org. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 706-327-3688.