Stephen Sondheim, Bernadette Peters and Signature Theatre’s Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer at the Sondheim Award gala Monday night at the Italian Embassy. (Russell Hirshon/ Signature Theatre)

Washington’s crush on Bernadette Peters kicked off Monday night at Signature Theatre’s Stephen Sondheim Award gala. The Tony-award winning actress, 63, will be in D.C. for the next three months: She just started rehearsals for the Kennedy Center’s revival of “Follies” and was honored by Signature for her roles in six Sondheim musicals. “I love her work and I love her,” said the composer, who got a little verklempt when he presented the award. The black-tie crowd at the Italian embassy included “Follies” castmate Linda Lavin, NEA Chair Rocco Landesman, producer George Stevens, and donors Helen Henderson, Adrienne Arsht, Maxine Isaacs and Victor Shargai.