The grand opening of Thousand Oaks' Civic Arts Plaza will blend local and national talent, with veteran Broadway performer Bernadette Peters joining the Conejo Symphony Orchestra for a black-tie gala.
Although Peters has not yet signed a contract, her publicist said the acclaimed singer and actress fully intends to perform her eclectic solo show in Thousand Oaks' 1,800-seat auditorium Oct. 21 and 22.
"She considers it booked," publicist Judy Katz said. "She liked the idea that she'd be opening a new performing arts center, and she loves playing with symphony orchestras. She's excited to do it."
Intent on establishing the Civic Arts Plaza as the premiere cultural center between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Thousand Oaks officials said they considered Peters' verbal commitment to headline the grand opening a coup.
"By bringing in a major star, we will announce to the country that we are a major force to be dealt with, not a backwater little theater," said Harry Selvin, a member of the city's theater commission. "She was our top choice, because of her national and international reputation."
Peters--a versatile performer who has won rave reviews for her concerts, plays and films--melds songs and drama in her high-energy acts. Drawing on country music, Broadway shows and old classics, she creates glitzy performances with broad appeal.
At a concert last fall in the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, for instance, Peters sang everything from Lyle Lovett to Stephen Sondheim to Rodgers & Hammerstein. Arts critics have praised Peters, who turned 45 last week, for her ability to shift from cute to coy to elegant to comic as she strives to express the tone of each new song.
"She's a dynamite little gal, she really truly is, and she's got a voice that will knock your socks off," said Selvin, who has been negotiating with Peters' agent for weeks.
Several theater commissioners said they expect a signed contract soon, probably within a few weeks. They would not release details about the negotiations now.
But Selvin said Peters' fee for two shows is within the grand opening's $80,000 performance budget.
Selvin also expressed confidence that negotiators had resolved the sticky issue of the "out clause," a standard bit of legalese allowing artists to break commitments if offered film work or gigs in Las Vegas or Atlantic City.
Selvin said Peters has agreed to give at least 60 days' notice if she does decide to accept another, more lucrative, deal. In the two months before the grand opening, she will not withdraw from the Thousand Oaks shows, no matter what other offers she receives, Selvin said.
Details of Peters' contract will be available after the star signs all the papers, theater commissioners said. At that point, they will also discuss plans for the grand opening, a mix of performances, speeches and champagne celebrations.
Tickets to the shows--which will open with the Conejo Symphony and local choirs performing Beethoven's "Ode to Joy"-- are expected to cost between $50 and $100. City officials expect sell-out crowds both Friday and Saturday nights, especially with a big-name headline act.
"Peters is a proven star," Councilwoman Judy Lazar said. "She's a very enthusiastic performer, and on those days, enthusiasm will be the reigning word."