Betty Buckley

October 23, 2011 | By | Add a Comment

“Ah Men! The Boys of Broadway”

Feinstein’s at Loews Regency  –  October 4 – 29

“Ah Men! The Boys of Broadway”—it’s a tasty title. Who would not find inspiration in the beautiful boys of Broadway? In her latest salute to the Great White Way, Betty Buckley remembers the songs performed by some of the greats and recalls some shows that influenced her.

Backing her is an impressive trio: Christian Jacob on piano, Peter Barshay on bass, and drummer Anthony Pinciotti, taking us on the deconstructed jazz route that Buckley likes. With her vocals, the group delivers every Christian Jacob and Eric Stern arrangement in a special Betty Buckley package. Just listen to the imaginative and poignant wanderings by young Freddy Eynsford-Hill in Lerner & Loewe’s “On the Street Where You Live” (My Fair Lady). The same moodiness inspires the hit song from The Pajama Game, “Hey There” (Richard Adler, Jerry Ross). With full throttle, she drives the “Jet Song” from West Side Story (Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim) and Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner’s “Come Back to Me” (On a Clear Day You Can See Forever).

Buckley is a master of ballads, a romantic by nature. She links into the lyrics and finds the sensitive core of the song’s intent, making the listener…well, swoon. She delivers here an intense rendition of Lt. Cable’s love song from South Pacific, “Younger Than Springtime” (Rodgers & Hammerstein). Also stirring is her rendition of another West Side Story song, “Maria.” She tells of watching Michael Rupert sing William Finn’s “Venice” in Elegies at Lincoln Center, then she takes the song for herself, finding all the shadows of melancholy wrapped up in the words “Beauty and pleasure is all we can hope to understand.” Buckley includes one of her favorite love songs, Jerry Herman’s touchingly delicate “Song on the Sand,” sung by Georges in La Cage aux Folles.

As moving as the ballads are, Buckley’s high point is the hilarious “A Hymn to Her,” an original medley of theatre music adapted by Eric Stern, with lyrics by Eric Kornfeld. This is a send-up of songs by leading men that Buckley calls “Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?” She presents funny and cogent arguments that women—like Buckley, for example—can persuasively deliver men’s signature songs. Examples include Billy Bigelow’s “Soliloquy” from Carousel, “Professor” Harold Hill rapping in The Music Man, and Tevye’s “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof, and she wonders, “How about a King Arthur who can actually sing?” (Camelot).

There is another notable portion of the evening, when Buckley salutes Stephen Sondheim with three songs from Sweeney Todd, each delivered in character: Tobias Ragg’s “Not While I’m Around,” Anthony Hope’s “Johanna,” and “My Friends,” as though sung by the deadly Sweeney himself.

On her second night of this engagement, Buckley impressed more with her fine acting, easy personality, and humor than with her vocal power, which was less secure in its range. Nevertheless, Betty Buckley remains one of our top women singers. “Music I can wish you” is a line from her final song, Frank Loesser’s “More I Cannot Wish You” (Guys and Dolls). Fine music she not only wishes, but gives us in “Ah Men! The Boys of Broadway,” one of Betty Buckley’s most entertaining shows.

 

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