Betty Buckley Promises Stories, Songs And Inspiration In NYC

By Curtis M. Wong
The Huffington Post
September 22, 2016

From “Cats” to “Sunset Boulevard” and everything in between, Betty Buckley boasts one of the most storied careers in modern musical theater. When the Tony Award winner discusses her body of work, however, she sees herself as the master of an entirely different medium.

“I think of myself as a painter, and I do these paintings every year — a new collection of paintings,” she told The Huffington Post in an interview. “My gallery setting is a concert hall. In the moment of the concert, it’s like a gallery showing. I bring out my portrait work onstage with my brilliant musicians, and we give people an experience.”

Buckley’s 2016 “collection,” as it were, it called “Story Songs.” The centerpiece of the new show, which opens Sept. 22 at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater in New York, is a new song by up-and-coming composer Joe Iconis. The song itself, “Old Flame,” was written exclusively for Buckley after she wrote Iconic (“Broadway Bounty Hunter,” “Be More Chill”) a fan letter last spring.

“I’ve been a huge fan of his for a while — he’s amazing and so funny,” she said. “Old Flame,” she added, “is unlike anything I’ve ever done before. I was so inspired by what he wrote.”

From there, Buckley began collecting music by the likes of Stephen Schwartz, Jason Robert Brown and even Radiohead for the new show with her longtime musical director, Christian Jacob. The result is a diverse assortment of “character pieces,” the type of which have become her signature.

As it turns out, “Story Songs” caps off what Buckley describes as a “great, great summer.” In August, she wrapped an acclaimed run as “Big Edie” in a Los Angeles production of the musical, “Grey Gardens,” directed by Michael Wilson. Part of her summer was also spent filming M. Night Shyamalan’s forthcoming thriller, “Split.”

The film, which opens in January, sees Buckley as a psychologist to the film’s protagonist (James McAvoy), a man with 23 different personalities.Now that she’s back in New York, Buckley can’t wait to check out the Broadway revival of “Cats,” and see how Leona Lewis fares as Grizabella, the role for which Buckley won a Tony Award in 1983. She’s considerably less enthusiastic, however, about another spectacle: the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The famously outspoken star hasn’t minced words on Twitter when it comes to Republican nominee Donald Trump, and she remains dumbfounded by voters who support him.

“That anyone is being buffaloed into this is just ludicrous,” she said. “It’s very disheartening.”

All of the “frenzy,” however, makes Buckley all the more eager to focus on what she loves: her art. “I feel really blessed that I have these wonderful relationships with some great artists that I get to collaborate with,” she said. “I’m very, very blessed.”