Broadway legend Betty Buckley brings cabaret to Ridgefield

By Phyllis A.S. Boros
Connecticut Post
May 3, 2016

Is there anything related to acting that Betty Buckley hasn’t done?

Acclaimed as the quintessential musical theater actress — and often described as “The Voice of Broadway” — Buckley’s career has also included countless roles on television and in film, as well as stage work and concerts around the world.

On Saturday, May 7, the legend comes to Ridgefield Playhouse for what is being billed as a “tour-de-force” performance that will highlight songs from her most recent albums, “Ghostlight” and “Ah, Men! The Boys of Broadway,” featuring her favorite songs written for men on the Great White Way. She will be accompanied by her regular jazz pianist, Christian Jacob.

“For anyone who has ever heard the Tony-winning actress sing, it is evident she possesses one of the finest, and perhaps the most unique, instruments: a voice of supple steel, capable of piercing the soul with either its razor-edged belt or ethereal upper register,” the playhouse said in its announcement.

When we caught up with Buckley, she was just finishing her exercise routine at her Texas home gym, where she works out six times a week. Keeping healthy and strong is a priority for the 68-year-old performer, who said her passion for performing is as deep as ever.

“I’m constantly vocalizing, getting enough sleep, watching my diet,” she said.

In addition to her concert gigs, Buckley is “in training” for her next role with Rachel York: The two are starring in “Grey Gardens,” which runs July 2 through Aug. 14 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.

“I have high hopes” for the musical, she said, suggesting that the show might have a life after L.A.

(If you missed the 1975 documentary of the same name, Ahmanson Theatre explains the musical is “based on the lives of Edith ‘Big Edie’ Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edith ‘Little Edie’ Bouvier Beale, two reclusive-yet-extraordinary relatives of Jackie Kennedy Onassis.)

Another of her passions, Buckley said, is giving master workshops here and abroad on the art of song interpretation and monologue work. Her wisdom on the subject is a result of experience in a variety of formats. Here’s a thumbnail sampler:

Buckley made her Broadway debut more than four decades ago as Mrs. Thomas Jefferson in “1776”; has starred as silent-film star Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard” in London and on Broadway; was Ms. Collins, the gym teacher in Brian dePalma’s classic film, “Carrie,” and Sondra Walker, wife of Harrison Ford’s character in Roman Polanski’s “Frantic” (1988). She also had a recurring TV role in the HBO series “Oz” — and lest we forget, she starred on television from 1977 to 1981 on the ABC series “Eight is Enough.”

Inducted in 2012 into the Theater Hall of Fame, where her name is etched on the walls of Broadway’s Gershwin Theatre, Buckley said she intends to perform as long as she is able.

“I have to keep making money” to keep her menagerie happy, she said, laughing. “I have a small ranch … and an assistant.” Together they care for “rescue animals, cats, dogs and a donkey.” And the special guys who have stolen her heart: two gelding cutting horses, which excel in Western-style equestrian competition.