Review: Betty Buckley

From beginning to end, Betty Buckley interprets every song with the subtle nuance born of long experience, both in song and life. She had wanted to center her return to the Cafe Carlyle on the Rodgers & Hart classic “My Romance”, but then ruefully (and comically) noted that if she worked solely from her own experience “that would be too dark for this lovely room.” So with that she decided on doing a more general show about “romantic notions, although it will go dark a little.” More on that shortly.

In accordance with Buckley’s sophisticated, multifaceted approach to the concept of romance, musical director Christian Jacob’s arrangements are complex and lush. Before she’s even introduced the subject of romance, they’ve rendered a gorgeous version of Sting’s meditation on human impermanence, “Fragile”.

But she does indeed keep the front part of the show light, with a super-jazzy rendition of the aforementioned Rodgers & Hart standard, and a story about how thrilled she was to be cast in the original production of Pippin. She had always wanted to be a Fosse show – and then disappointingly discovered she would only be doing one very simple piece of choreography. Which of course leads to Jerome Kern’s “I Won’t Dance”.

She shades darker with Sondheim’s passionate “Not a Day Goes By” but only does the more youthful less-heartbroken lyrics. Then she does Dylan’s break-up song “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” which is more philosophical than sad. The real darkness comes when she covers young singer-songwriter Jensen McRae’s harrowing but beautiful #MeToo ballad “Wolves” which Betty performs with a delicacy that makes the song even more poignant.

She buoys us up with with Abbey Lincoln’s worldly-wise account of the ups and downs of romance “Throw It Away”. I’ve long seen Betty Buckley’s voice as one more instrument (a very powerful one) in an ultra-tight jazz ensemble, and that is as true as ever, in the best way. Recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.wordpress.com.

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