Betty Buckley Is a Cowgirl Who Can Do Anything

Nashville doesn’t get nearly enough living Broadway legends. But for whatever cosmic reason or intervention by the Gods of Musical Theater, we have the chance to experience Betty Buckley in Hello, Dolly!, and that’s cause for celebration.

Dolly Levi is a woman conscious of her own interests and the system in which she has to operate, and though she’s got her eye on the bottom line, she’s kindhearted and genuinely cares about other people. It’s a role that has seen legends like Carol Channing, Pearl Bailey, Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand put their all into, and yet it has allowed each of the hundreds of women who have played the part through the years to make it her own. Nashville is getting the chance to see one of the most iconic and peerless performers of stage and screen before the parade passes by, which given the utter madness of the world today is a gracious gift.

Elaine Paige tried. Barry Manilow tried. So did Streisand and Sarah Brightman and what seemed like everyone for two-and-a-half straight years on Star Search. But “Memory,” from Cats, is the song that Buckley defined in her Tony-winning performance. The same thing happened a decade later with “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard. Many artists try, and they find their groove and ride it out — but no one does it quite like Betty Buckley. Her voice is a bridge — strong and supportive, but capable of feeling and shaking with the wind. It is an elemental experience to hear her take on songs like “And Eve Was Weak” from Carrie, or “Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy, simply because there’s no one else quite like her.

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