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Friday, January 29, 2010

Deeper Dish with Betty Buckley

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows that I've loved Betty Buckley ever since she married Mr. Bradford back in 1977 and became a stepmother to his eight kids. I'm, of course, referring to her role on TV's Eight Is Enough as the sweet Abby, whom she played for four seasons. It wasn't until many years later that I discovered Betty was in musicals and had won a 1983 Tony Award for her performance as Grizabella in Cats (I was a late-blooming show tune enthusiast). Since then I've been lucky enough to see her onstage in a 1993 Chicago production of A.R. Gurney's play, The Fourth Wall, as well as perform in concert twice - most recently in 2008 at Ravinia, where she sang "He Plays the Violin" from her first Broadway musical, 1776. It was some enchanting evening to say the least.

Since her 1969 Broadway debut, Betty has appeared in many memorable films - Carrie (1976), Tender Mercies (1982), Woody Allen's Another Woman (1988), television series - HBO's Oz (2001-03), and musicals - Promises, Promises (the 1970 London production), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1985-86), Carrie: The Musical (the infamous 1988 production), Sunset Boulevard (1994-96), and Triumph of Love (for she was nominated for a 1998 Tony for Best Actress in a Musical). She has also recorded eleven solo albums, including Children Will Listen (1993), With One Look (1994), Stars and the Moon: Betty Buckley Live at the Donmar (for which she received a 2002 Grammy nomination), and Quintessence (2008). And she will be performing a brand new cabaret show, For the Love of Broadway!, at Feinstein's in New York beginning this Tuesday, February 2. I am so thrilled to have the fabulous Betty Buckley here on the Dish to discuss her career and answer a few pop culture questions.

Let's start with your show, For the Love of Broadway! Can you share a few of the songs that you're planning to sing?
I'll be performing songs from Broadway shows that I've never sung before in performance like "I Never Know When", which Elaine Stritch sang in Goldilocks, two songs from The King and I - "I Have Dreamed" and "We Kiss in a Shadow", "You've Got Possibilities" from It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman, "There's a Fine, Fine Line" from Avenue Q, and two songs from Nine - "Simple" and "Be On Your Own". Kenny Werner, my longtime music director and arranger, will be on piano with Billy Drewes on reeds and Tony Marino on bass. My musical consultant is John McDaniel, who was the musical director for Rosie O'Donnell's show, and he and his writing partner, Eric Kornfeld, have provided me with some special material. The title of the show came from a fan submission contest on Twitter, and two people submitted For the Love of Broadway!

Out of all the theater you've done, what stage role have you enjoyed performing the most?
Grizabella in the original company of Cats was a fabulous experience, and playing Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard for two years in London and on Broadway was wonderful. And I got to work with director Trevor Nunn on both of those shows - it doesn't get any better than that.

Is there a role in any musical or play that you would love to do someday?
I used to want to perform in a Wild West version of Annie Get Your Gun.

You've appeared in some interesting film, television and theatrical projects over the years. What is the first thing that pops into your mind about:

A blessing.

Promises, Promises?
A divine gift. I was 22 years old and living in London and working with David Merrick, who produced the show, Michael Bennett, Burt Bacharach, Hal David - and I got to watch Donna McKechnie dance every night.

Eight Is Enough?
An education.

Carrie (the 1976 film)?
First movie. I enjoyed working with director Brian De Palma.

Carrie: The Musical?
Outrageous. So much fun. Loved Linzi Hateley.

Fabulous. I got to work every day with all those hunky guys who were great actors.

In high school I was:
A nerd - but I could sing really loud.

My favorite comfort food is:
Mexican food from Joe T. Garcia's in Fort Worth. The best Mexican food in the world.

When I was growing up, I never missed a television episode of:
Fury and Sky King - one was about a horse and the other was about a cowboy who was a pilot. I also liked Spin and Marty, which was about two kids on a dude ranch.

I never miss a television episode of:
So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol and Dexter.

The very first record album that I purchased with my own money was:
Wave by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

If I was stranded on a desert island for a year, I would want to listen to:
Michael McDonald, The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, Kenny Werner, Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett.

If I could go back in time to see any Broadway show, I would see:
The original Pajama Game, any early Gwen Verdon show, and On A Clear Day with Barbara Harris.

Three of my favorite movies to watch are:
E.T., Ken Russell's Don't Look Now, and The Black Stallion with Caleb Deschanel's beautiful cinematography.

If I could have anyone in the world - living or dead - be a guest at my dinner party, I would invite the following three people:
Einstein, Gandhi and Eleonora Duse.

What's next for Betty Buckley?
Four weeks at Feinstein's - February 2-27 - singing songs I've never sung before. I can't wait! I'm also in the HBO miniseries, The Pacific - produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks - this spring, and I have a cameo appearance in an April episode of Melrose Place, which was directed by my brother.

Thank you, Betty, for getting Deeper with us here on the Dish. To learn more about Betty Buckley, check out her official website at You can also become a Facebook fan by clicking here or follow her on Twitter. And for tickets to For the Love of Broadway! at Feinstein's, please call (212) 339-4095 or go to


Mitchum said...

I was fortuante enough to see Betty in Sunset Boulevard on Broadway, 4th row center. It was the first broadway show my boyfriend had ever seen. She was magnificent.
My dream? Betty as Blanche and Patti LuPone as Jane in a Broadway musical adaptation of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.

Lance said...

By the way, Marc...

I got to sing in concert with Miss. Buckley in the Autumn of 1994! Granted, I was one of (about) 200 guys on the stage -- I was singing with the Turtle Creek Chorale in Dallas -- but I was there!! And it was a really cool experience. =)

Deep Dish said...

Mitchum, I would pay good money to see Betty and Patti in any show together.

Lance, I'm sure that was a very cool experience!