Some background: Bernadette Peters’s run as Mama Rose in Gypsy was beset by rumors that she wasn’t up to snuff. The star missed multiple performances during previews because of a bronchial ailment, which lent credence to the whispers that her voice wasn’t strong enough for the score. She opened to a rave in the New York Times, but the production never really caught fire at the box office. So when the Tony Awards came around and Peters performed “Rose’s Turn,” she had a lot to prove—and, if she didn’t nail it, a lot to lose.
But from the moment she looked out at the audience and snarled, “Here she is boys! Here she is world! Here’s Rose!” it was clear that she had it. And that she was directly addressing all the gossip mongers. The result is thrilling and moving, and though the video doesn’t include it, resulted in a lengthy standing ovation. It’s still the greatest performance of a Tony Awards telecast I’ve ever witnessed.