Betty Buckley loves men. And in a pair of glittery silver heels balanced by her elegantly tousled silver hair, she tells us, through song and story, about her favorite male parts. Musical theatre parts, that is, including songs from leading male roles in West Side Story, South Pacific, Guys and Dolls and Sweeney Todd.
The vaguely implied impetus for Ah Men! The Boys of Broadway is the depressing lack of strong, mature female parts for women; whereas, for men, the roles are plentiful. In fact, in a hilarious original tune penned by Eric Stern and Eric Kornfeld, Buckley joked how there are “two strong parts for women, and I played both of them!”
(And, for the record, based on her emotionally intense performance of tunes from Sweeney Friday night – a medley of “Not While I’m Around,” “Johanna” and “My Friends” – Buckley would make a stupendous Sweeney. Just sayin’.)
From the first note in her show – a fresh, breezy arrangement of “I Can See It” from The Fantasticks – Buckley was in very fine voice with this mostly new material and seemed to be having the time of her life. Especially when she introduced two songs from her most favorite musical ever, West Side Story: “Jet Song” and “Maria.” Her giddiness is contagious and her tight trio of Christian Jacob on piano (who also did many of the evening’s inventive arrangements) Anthony Pinciotti on drums and Peter Barshay on bass keep the beat pumping and your toes tapping.
However, my hands-down favorite moment of the evening was a little-known number from William Finn’s Elegies called “Venice.” Originated by Michael Rupert in the original 2003 production at Lincoln Center, of which Buckley was also part, this is a stunning story song about watching a loved one slowly begin to lose their mental facilities as illness takes over. I hope Buckley records it on an upcoming album; this performance demands to be preserved.
This is my second time seeing Buckley in this classy and cozy space (I sat next to John McDaniel and Christine Pedi Fridyay night – it’s that kind of crowd), and the fit between venue and performer is divine. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to a rare and intimate night with this one-of-a-kind performer. As Buckley says at the end of her show, “It’s like I’m throwing a party every night!” Amen, indeed, Ms. Betty Buckley!
“Ah Men! The Boys of Broadway” plays through October 29 at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency at 540 Park Avenue, New York, NY. More info here >