Cabaret Review: “The Crisp, Coolness of Betty Buckley”

True theater and cabaret aficionados are well aware of the four seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, and—Buckley.

Broadway and Emmy award winning star Betty Buckley returned to Joe’s Pub for her annual Fall engagement.  Last night’s 9:30 audience could not have been happier as she debuted an exciting new set called Story Songs 2– a sequel of sorts to last year’s Story Songs.

Buckley’s stellar band began the evening with “Ecotopia”, an instrumental composition from the world/jazz group, Oregon. She later confessed that she would jump into her beamer and drive around Central Park, blast the road-trip appropriate song while navigating  the windy curves.

The Texas native gained mass appeal in 1977 with the television family comedy-drama Eight is Enough, in which she played the conventional mom role of Abby Abbott-Bradford. “I had to convince myself that I was still cool, so I’d listen to Steely Dan,” she joked. Well, Ms. Buckley, is still very very cool—as evidenced by her Steely Dan covers, “Any Major Dude Will Tell You” and “Don’t Take Me Alive.”

Buckley actually delved into the blues/country genre quite a bit, singing three songs from her fellow Texan friend/heavy hitter producer T-Bone Burnett: “My Least Favorite Life”, “Every Little Thing”, and “Dope Island”- a spooky number which evoked  Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”.

To little surprise, show tunes were also sprinkled throughout the show. A particularly touching original number by Jason Robert Brown, “Hope”, was written the day after the election and was delivered with sweet, but dogged determination.

Buckley tipped her hat to other songwriters that have influenced her life: Joni Mitchell, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Paul Simon, and Lisa Loeb all made musical appearances. These selections, along with the rest of the tunes were arranged by Christian Jacob, Ms. Buckley’s pianist and musical director. Jacob’s job looks effortless, thanks to his top of the line musicians: Tony Marino on bass, guitarist Oz Noy, and drummer Dan Rieser.

Ms. Buckley remains at the top of her game. Fewer artists have the capacity to not only sing the hell out of their songs with great beauty, but to also act them with as much sincerity and heart as she does.  She is truly connected to each and every musical moment. This is a rare gift that she gives freely to her devoted fans.

Quit gawking at the autumn leaves, put down that pumpkin spiced latte, and pick up your tickets to the real reason for the season: Betty Buckley.

Betty Buckley: Story Songs #2.  Now through Oct. 15th at the Public Theater. For tickets, go to Joe’s Pub.


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