Having previously been “chastened” by Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim for her jazzy interpretations of his music, singer Betty Buckley said he likely wouldn’t cast her in one of his future musicals.
But that didn’t stop Buckley from singing a song from “Into the Woods” “exactly as Sondheim wrote it,” Saturday night at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre.
Her rendition of “No One is Alone” was among a dozen or so heartfelt numbers that the musical theater legend performed in a mellow and low-key recital, accompanied by Seth Rudetsky on a Steinway grand.
Buckley is best known to theater lovers for her Tony-winning turn as Grizabella, the Glamour Cat, in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats.” However, the recital wasn’t just a walk down “Memory” lane.
Rudetsky, host of the Broadway channel on Sirius Satellite Radio, introduced Buckley with a couple of amusing film clips. One, from the 1979 movie “Hair,” was of an Asian actress singing with what sounded like Buckley’s consistently sweet vibrato. As it turns out, director Milos Forman had Buckley overdub the actress.
Quite a bit of trivia was imparted throughout the concert between numbers. The song order skipped across the decades and covered a wide range of musical theater.
She entered with “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from “Sunset Boulevard,” another Webber musical that she starred in for two years on London and Broadway.
She then went into the vault, pulling out “He Plays the Violin” from her Broadway premiere, “1776.” Martha Jefferson was a role that she landed, she said, on her first day in New York City in the late 1960s.
After singing “Love Song” from “Pippin,” she described the upset of having composer Stephen Schwartz write a new role especially for her, auditioning nine times for it, then losing it to another actress. Buckley said that her therapist finally told her to “get over it.” Buckley added “Meadowlark” from the “The Baker’s Wife” to her concert repertoire and now happily claims it as hers.
The song was a highlight of the evening, along with a touching version of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “I Am a Town,” which she delivered with teary sweetness.
Some of her more interesting choices included “Hey There,” from “The Pajama Game,” “Some People” from “Gypsy,” and “You’ve Got Possibilities” from “It’s a Bird... It’s a Plane... It’s Superman.”
At 63, Buckley has settled down somewhat, raising horses on a ranch in Texas and performing concerts. Her set, too, was vocally more subdued and less aggressive, but the audience was rewarded with a soaring “Memory,” and then “Amazing Grace” sung a cappella and without a microphone.
While Buckley may not be heading back to Broadway anytime soon, there’s no doubt that she could still handle it if Sondheim ever decides to call.