Betty Buckley brings Broadway vixens to Smith Center


When Broadway’s Betty Buckley played The Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz last year, she focused on “Ah, Men! The Boys of Broadway” — but included one tune sung by a woman. The other woman.

This weekend at The Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz, Buckley returns with an entire show devoted to “The Other Woman: The Vixens of Broadway” — mischievous minxes, bad girls and maybe even femme-fatale felines. (Remember, Buckley won a Tony Award for her “Cats” performance as grizzled Grizabella, the faded “glamour cat” who sings “Memory.”)

From “Oklahoma’s” man-crazy Ado Annie, who “Cain’t Say No,” to “Brigadoon’s” saucy Meg Brockie, the show features “a nice lineup of songs” delivered by “naughty girls, mischievous girls” and other assorted supporting characters.

“I’ve played a lot of these parts,” including the aforementioned Ado Annie (in college) and Meg (at Casa Mañana, a theater in her native Texas), Buckley confesses in a telephone interview.

And even when she hasn’t played a role — such as “Chicago’s” cheerfully corrupt prison matron, Mama Morton, or “Into the Woods’ ” Little Red Riding Hood — the character’s situation often informs her performance of their songs, Buckley says.

Red Riding Hood’s “I Know Things Now,” for example, focuses on “a moment in a young girl’s life” when knowledge replaces innocence, the performer notes. (“Isn’t it nice to know a lot,” Stephen Sondheim’s lyric asks, “and a little bit not.”)

“Unusual Way,” from “Nine,” explores “an actress’s relationship to a director,” one that “has a personal resonance for me,” Buckley says, even though “I’m not that actress.”

Throughout, “I’m not very interested in just re-creating the material as it was done on Broadway,” she says. “I’ve always thought of myself as a portrait painter; my medium is music and sound.”

And arranger Christian Jacob “works on a soul level” to provide “the colors we describe,” helping Buckley “bring to life the feelings (I) have about the material.”

Despite the show’s title, there’s one medley that underlines Buckley’s leading-lady credentials: a pair of songs from “Dear World,” composer Jerry Herman’s musical version of “The Madwoman of Chaillot,” which made its London debut earlier this year with Buckley in the starring role of Countess Aurelia. (Angela Lansbury won a Tony in 1969 for her title-role performance in the show’s Broadway run.)

Overall, “The Vixens of Broadway” ranks as “a funny, light-hearted, joyous” show, Buckley says.

Those adjectives also describe how she feels about returning to Cabaret Jazz.

“I just love The Smith Center,” Buckley says. “It’s so gorgeous — and acoustically perfect. I’m thrilled for Las Vegas.”

And, clearly, thrilled to be back.

Contact reporter Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.

 

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