Tony winner Betty Buckley, who recently completed a critically acclaimed run in the national tour of the Tony-winning revival of Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly!, returns to New York's Café Carlyle next month, playing March 10–21 at the intimate cabaret. Those who missed her terrific turn as Dolly Gallagher Levi will get a chance to hear her thrilling renditions of the title tune and the musical's anthem, “Before the Parade Passes By.” Buckley will also bring her interpretive magic to a few songs by Tony winner Jason Robert Brown as well as several tunes from her most recent solo recordings. The Broadway favorite will also teach a five-day Song Interpretation & Monologue Intensive Master Class beginning March 4 at T. Schreiber Studio.
Playbill recently had the pleasure of catching up with the ever-busy artist. Read the Q&A with the multi-talented Buckley below.
You’re returning to the Café Carlyle in March. What’s the experience like for you playing such an intimate setting? Does the size of a performance space ever affect your song choices and/or interpretations?
So excited to be back at The Cafe Carlyle! I so love the room. It is the epitome of New York elegance and style and has such a rich, resonant history. The intimacy of the room requires attention to choices of songs that work well in that setting.
You recently performed a series of concerts with Jason Robert Brown, including a new song he wrote for you. Can you talk a bit about the new song? Also, will you be including any of Brown’s work in the Carlyle show?
Working with Jason Robert Brown for three concerts in his Subculture series was so much fun! I was thrilled to get to work with him for the week. He wrote a lovely new song called “Love Again” that we debuted in those concerts. And, I learned a couple of new songs of his as well for my new Carlyle set.
When you look back at your year in Hello, Dolly!, what memories stand out most? Will any of the Jerry Herman score make it into your Carlyle engagement?
The 13 months on the road with the new Broadway production of Hello, Dolly!, directed by the genius Jerry Zaks and produced by the great Scott Rudin, was a gift! Playing Dolly Levi was such an inspiration. Working with the wonderful Lewis Stadlen and our incredible company was a blessing. And having to step into the shoes of a character who is entirely committed to choosing joy as a way of being and loving everyone she meets was a challenge. Rising to that state of being eight times a week was not easy, but so worthwhile. And the lesson of choosing joy on a daily basis has inspired me to attempt to continue to do so.
It was wonderful and amazing to experience audiences all over the country resonate with the beauty of the production and the message of joy and love in the show, and to realize that despite so much in a world that is at “sixes and sevens,” to quote Thornton Wilder, at essence, we all just want to experience joy. At that level we are completely connected. That was a beautiful relief for me to witness every performance.
I will be doing two songs from Jerry Herman's beautiful score, “Hello, Dolly!” and “Before The Parade Passes By” with beautiful new arrangements by my collaborator and musical director-pianist Christian Jacob.
And on certain nights I will have some guest artists sing a song or two. As of now—Michael Feinstein, Bonnie Milligan, and perhaps Joe Iconis. That should be super fun.
What other material can audiences expect in New York?
The songs we are planning are mostly from my most recent albums Story Songs and HOPE with Christian and my band featuring the brilliant guitarist Oz Noy, long-time bass player Tony Marino, and drummer Ben Perowsky.
At the beginning of March, you will also be offering a Song Interpretation/Monologue Workshop at T. Schreiber Studio. How do you think your teaching has developed over the years?
I teach my students the remarkable tools given to me by my great teachers. I have been taught by some of the best teachers in the business. And I teach my students how to meditate to learn to focus their minds in a one-pointed way. My brilliant voice teacher Paul Gavert, who taught me for 19-and-a-half years, told me that the art of storytelling in song was accomplished by learning one-pointed focus. I have been trained by other great teachers as well. I teach a Universal Spiritual Philosophy as a foundation for making choices as a storyteller from a level of the essence we all have in common as a connected humanity. It is a beautiful and profound technique that affords a very deep level of connection with an audience.
And, what do you think your students have taught you?
So many things. I have been teaching for over 45 years, so that would be a long list. I guess the biggest thing is that if you have a calling, if your heart longs to accomplish something, then you will be given the means and the opportunity to do that thing, that is, if you commit your whole being. And that no one gets to tell you what your limits are but you yourself.
The Cats movie received a lot of criticism, but what was it like for you to watch a movie of the musical that brought you a Tony?
It was so fun being at the premiere of the film. I was delighted to be there. And the experience brought back a lot of “memories.” Pardon the pun.
Do you have any other projects in the works you can discuss?
My character Patricia Arias returns to Supergirl on the CW this Sunday, February 23, for the 100th episode. That should be fun! Later in the year some more concert work. And perhaps a couple of recordings. We'll see. I will also be doing a new collection of songs for Joe's Pub for November.