Review: Betty Buckley

Betty Buckley’s newest cabaret act “Ah Men! The Boys of Broadway” is a well balanced and pleasing evening, that just gets better as it goes along. On opening night, when I saw it, Betty Lynn complained that it’s a bit unfair that the first night of a cabaret run is the night all the critics come – it’s also the performer’s first time performing it in front of an audience of any kind.

Betty needn’t have been concerned, though. She’s in very strong voice, and this evening of men’s songs from Broadway shows is a lot of fun. This sort of showtune gender-bending has become somewhat commonplace after the runaway success of Broadway Backwards, but Buckley goes a bit beyond the usual conceit, making a good case for actual gender-blind casting.

Buckley and her pianist/arranger Christian Jacob have done a terrific job of balancing ballads and uptempo numbers. However, somewhat unusually for Buckley, who can be one of the most profound and searching song interpreters around, not all of her interpretations are revelatory.

She plays Leonard Bernstein’s “Maria” very straight, singing it beautifully, but barely scratching the surface of what the song means. This from a woman who found shades and meanings in the Beatles’ “Blackbird” that not even Sir Paul McCartney himself could have imagined.

A little over halfway though the show, though, she sings a whip-smart, very funny specialty number about cross-gender casting called “A Hymn to Her”. From that point onward, she knocks every song out of the ballpark. Jacob’s arrangement of “Hey There” is truly dramatic and luscious, and Betty brings out the tender longing at the song’s heart like no-one before her. In general, Buckley’s return engagement at Feinstein’s finds her in fine frisky fettle!

For tickets, click here.

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