Betty Buckley’s career is the stuff Broadway musicals are made of.
On her very first day in New York City in 1969, the Texas native was cast in the very first role for which she auditioned, originating Martha Jefferson in the Broadway musical “1776.”
Since then, Buckley has forged a career across the genres. Some people know her as kind step-mom Abby Bradford from “Eight is Enough.” Others recognize her from her work on the HBO prison drama “Oz,” or for her film work, which includes “Tender Mercies and Carrie.” Broadway fans know her for starring as silent screen star Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard” and her Tony-winning performance of glamorous Grizabella in “Cats,” in which she sang the haunting “Memory.”
“People say it’s my signature song. I’m fortunate to even have a signature song, but that its ‘Memory’ is great. I’ve never grown tired of it.”
Fans can experience a different aspect of this multi-talented performer, who has been dubbed ‘The Voice of Broadway,’ when Buckley performs at The Colony Theatre in Miami Beach Feb. 27 and 28, part of The Colony’s South Beach Broadway Series.
Buckley’s concert at the Colony will feature songs from her latest CD, “Ghostlight,” which was produced by the legendary T Bone Burnett. The two grew up together in Texas, and Burnett made the first recording of Buckley’s voice when she was 19. They made an archive tape of that recording which was released in 2007 with the title “Betty Buckley 1967.”
“They called it the first record I never had,” Buckley says. Burnett wanted to make another record, so he and Buckley teamed up for “Ghostlight,” a collection of standards and Broadway songs as well as contemporary pieces, including “Blue Skies, If You Go Away, Body and Soul,” and a haunting rendition of “This Nearly Was Mine” from “South Pacific.”
Buckley’s live performances include guest appearances with several gay men’s choruses, including those in Dallas and San Francisco. “I’ve been very blessed by the attentions of my gay audience and friends. They’ve supported me tremendously throughout my career.”
Buckley was living in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. She says that in the aftermath of that tragedy she felt lost for the first time in her life, and found that nothing inspired her. She found new inspiration in horses, rediscovering her childhood dream of owning her own horse. She connected with a trainer who helped her find and buy a cutting horse, and then commuted between New York and Texas.
“It changed my life, and I realized one night after I came home from teaching in New York that I needed to live where my horse lives,” she says.
Now Buckley lives on a ranch near Fort Worth, which she shares with her four horses, a donkey and a collection of rescue animals.
“I know I need to always live with horses,” she says. “They soothe my soul. When I’m conflicted I go out to the barn and it calms me right down. I didn’t have that for years. Everything was work, work, work. Now I work so I can do this.”
But Buckley, who is 67, has no plans of giving up her performance career. She tells of giving a pep talk to an actress friend, who was thinking about retiring.
“I want to work as long as I can work,” Buckley says. “We’re so afraid of our aging process. Life is very interesting at every stage of life, and every stage of life has its own blessing and the potential for inspiration, if you allow it to be that way.”
Betty Buckley will perform at The Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Road, February 27 and 28, part of the South Beach Broadway Series. For tickets and more information, call 305-434-7091 or visit ColonyTheatreMiamiBeach.com.