By Tom Alvarez, Indianapolis Performing Arts Examiner
November 27, 2013
It’s possible that there is hardly anyone alive who hasn’t at least heard “Memory,” the song made famous by Betty Buckley as Grizabella in “Cats,” the long running musical that premiered on Broadway in 1982. Bringing her star power to Indy, resulting in sold out shows, Buckley made her Cabaret at the Columbia Club debut in “Ah Men! The Boys of Broadway” Friday Nov. 21 and Saturday Nov. 22.
The Tony-Award winning (for “Cats”) Buckley’s other Broadway credits include “Sunset Boulevard,” “Triumph of Love,” “Pippin,” “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” and others. A film and television actress, Buckley starred for three seasons in the HBO series “Oz” and as Abby Bradford in the hit series “Eight Is Enough.” Buckley has also recorded 16 CDs including her most recent one, which bears the same title as her Cabaret at the Columbia Club show.
Buckley was accompanied by her extraordinary pianist and music director Christian Jacob. He was also responsible for many of the marvelous arrangements of Broadway show tunes traditionally sung by men which she performed.
Though Buckley’s dramatic talents showed no signs of diminishment at Friday’s show, it was clear that her vocal abilities were no longer at the same level as they once were. In fact, at times, especially whenever she belted or sang high notes, the shrill sound of her uncontrolled vibrato was nearly oppressive.
Songs performed by Buckley included “I Can See It,” “Maria” and “Jet Song,” from “West Side Story”; “Luck Be A Lady Tonight,” from “Guys and Dolls”; “Venice,” from “Elegies”; a suite of three songs from “Sweeney Todd” — “Not While I’m Around,” “Johanna” and “My Friends”; and “Corner of the Sky,” from “Pippin.”
The thought that kept returning to this writer during Buckley’s performance was the wish to remember her voice the way it once was. Nevertheless, the evening was not a complete disappointment. There was no question that Buckley, an expressive, seasoned entertainer, has presence, could still connect with an audience and that she hadn’t lost her powers of story-telling either in song or the through the anecdotes she related about her life and career. Still, what was hoped would be a satisfying musical experience was instead merely a bittersweet one.
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