You mention the name Betty Buckley and two things come to mind….Abby on TV dramedy Eight is Enough, and most prominently the lady who sings the hell out of “Memories” from Andrew Webber’s CATS on Broadway, the later winning her a Tony. But there is so much more to what Buckley has offered us with her talents in theater (CATS,Mysteries of Edwin Drood, Sunset Boulevard), television (Eight is Enough, Pretty Liars), film (Carrie, Tender Mercies, The Happenings),and music with fifteen solo releases over the past 43 years. At 65, Betty Buckley has no indication of slowing down either. With the album release this past summer of songs from her hit show at Feinstein’s at the Regency, Ah, Men: The Boys of Broadway, Buckley has plans to release her 16th album entitled Ghostlight later in 2013. Her television career has been revitalized with a recurring role on Pretty Liars, and she co-starred in a film release in 2011, 5 Time Champion. And, continuing as a staple in her first love, the theater, Buckley will be going to London in 2013 to star in revival of Jerry Herman’s (Hello, Dolly!, Mame, La Cage au Folles) Dear World. Though the touring of her highly acclaimed concert Ah, Men may be coming to an end in December, she has already introduced another show The Other Woman: The Vixens of Broadway which is sure bet to continue touring when she returns from London. While going through rehearsals and preparing for the final performances of her album supported concert, I spoke with the Betty Buckley, the next inductee in the Theater Hall of Fame.
BeBe: It’s very rare to review the works of someone that embodies everything as it pertains to entertainment. You have a wealth of work not only in the theater, not only in television, not only in film, but you have also released 15 solo albums. How can you do all of that?
Betty Buckley: (laughing) A working girl’s gotta keep working! It’s fun. I really enjoy it all. And, I’m thankful that I still have the opportunity.
BeBe: That’s even more amazing because you work in a profession where roles for women with meaning are not readily available as with men, yet, you’ve still been able to do work that is notable.
BeBe: Being that most of us in the public grew to know you from role as Abby on Eight is Enough for four seasons prior to you going back to theater from where you started to do Andrew Webber’s CATS which earned you the Tony, do you think most were a bit surprised to learn magnitude of your theater presence?
Betty Buckley: Yeah, actually there were people on Eight is Enough I kept asking if I could sing on the show, and they said nooooo. Oh, now she wants to sing. Then finally they let me write a couple of songs for Abby over the course of the show. I don’t think they really knew because I would fly back to New York every six-weeks for my voice lessons which one of the producers of the show thought was particularly crazy. I’ll be back on Broadway and he says ‘you’ll be lucky if you play American mothers for the rest of your life.’ We’ll see Greg (Strangis), we’ll see! I went on after I left that show to do CATS, I played a boy in The Mysteries of Edwin Drood , and then on to play a country-western alcoholic star in Tender Mercies (1983 film). I think I made him eat his words there.
BeBe: I bet he is doing just that. What you’ve done is so amazing because many when people (actors) get into the same roles for a long time on television in sitcoms or dramas they kind of get stuck in playing those same parts.
Betty Buckley: Well, it’s a great job when you can get it. But my love is especially in musical theater.
BeBe: You touched upon your film work wen mentioning Tender Mercies which reminded me that you were in Carrie (she played the gym teacher). Was that your first film?
Betty Buckley: Yes, Carrie was my first movie.
BeBe: Have you done another horror film?
Betty Buckley: Yes, I did a (M. Night) Shyamalan ( The Sixth Sense, Signs, The Village, Devil ) called The Happenings (2008 film with Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel). I played a crazy lady in that who kills herself by smashing head through a window.
BeBe: Now, 2013 hasn’t even gotten here yet and already you have a year ahead of you that we can celebrate now.
Betty Buckley: Well, we certainly hope so.
Betty Buckley: Yes Ah, Men was just released at the end of August and then Ghostlight will be released sometime in 2013 which was produced by the brilliant T. Bone Burnett.
BeBe: And then, you will be in the new London revival of Dear World which is a Jerry Herman (living with HIV for over 25 years) production. That has to be exciting.
Betty Buckley: Yes, we leave for London in December. Gillian Lynne, the choreographer of CATS) is choreographing and directing. We open February 4 (2013) Charing Cross Theater of London until the end of March in hopes that this little run in a little theater a predecessor to a move to the West End. But, so much remains to be seen before that happens.
BeBe: And then, you’re being inducted in the Theater Hall of Fame.
Betty Buckley: Yeah, that is happening January 28 (2013). I just found out about that. I’m really thrilled.
BeBe: And it’s way past due.
Betty Buckley: Thank you. I hope they’ll let me fly back from London for this. It would be great to be there.
BeBe: Oh my goodness. There will be protests around the world if not (we both laugh). Look 2013 has all these wonderful blessings ahead for you , but leading up to all that you have the the Ah, Man: The Boys of Broadway you are touring in concert format representing your latest album. Now, I know these are songs that are normally performed by men. What was it about these songs that made you want to perform, particularly since they are male songs?
Betty Buckley: These are songs I’ve always loved and have always wanted to sing but I thought this little gathering songs by men, I didn’t feel people would quite get why I was singing them. I do a show every year at Feinstein’s (at the Regency for the past 8 years. I decided last year to do this collection Ah, Men: The Boys of Broadway. Currently I’m at Feinstein’s doing The Other Woman: The Vixens of Broadway from roles that are the second leads, and that’s been very fun, too.
BeBe: Are there any plans do release an album form of The Other Woman: The Vixens of Broadway like you did with Ah, Men?
Betty Buckley: I don’t know. We are recording it live this weekend and we will see what happens.
BeBe: Now I know over the past couple of years you have returned back to television in some roles that have been apart of shows (Melrose Place, Pretty Little Liars) directed by your brother (Norman Buckley). How has that been taking direction from your brother?
Betty Buckley: He’s a great director! I’m really grateful. Through his relationship with the people at Pretty Little Liars (on Fox)he got them to come see me in concert, and they wrote me a recurring role on that show, the grandmother of Johanna and Regina (characters) who is a crazy one.
BeBe: I’ve always thought that if there is one person that they need to bring onto Glee, it should be you.
Betty Buckley: Oh gee, thanks!
BeBe: Would that be something you would do if approached with that offer?
Betty Buckley: Of course. It’s a great show. And, I also love Smash (NBC), too.
BeBe: Maybe I should start a Facebook campaign to get you on the show.
Betty Buckley: Actually, that’s already been done, but they don’t seem to be persuaded by it. The producers are going to do what they are going to do.
Betty Buckley brings her Ah, Men: The Boys of Broadway concert show to San Francisco’s Rrazz Room in the Hotel Nikko through November 3. For more information and tickets go to www.therrazzroom.com
Buckley’s Ah,Men show stops next at:
Nov 10: The New Jersey Performing Arts Center Newark, NJ
Nov 15-18: Smith Center Las Vegas, NV
For Betty Buckley’s 2013 schedule follow her on her website at www.bettybuckley.com