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Review: BETTY BUCKLEY & FRIENDS Deliver a Beautifully Thoughtful Evening at Joe's Pub

Betty Buckley Returns to Joe's Pub March 18-21

Review: BETTY BUCKLEY & FRIENDS Deliver a Beautifully Thoughtful Evening at Joe's Pub
photo by Stephen Mosher

Last evening outside The Public Theatre, it felt like spring was truly just around the corner. It was warm and there were blossoms in the street planters, the sidewalk was alive with the din of New Yorkers out enjoying the balmy evening. But inside Joe's Pub, the atmosphere was decidedly autumnal. The great Betty Buckley has returned for eight performances of her new concert show Betty Buckley & FRIENDS. She has put together an entertaining and thoughtful evening of songs about loss, getting lost, and summoning the heart and soul to find your way back. The theme is subtle but powerful and she weaves her tapestry without even a hint of mawkishness. Like so many of us in this "hopefully aprés-pandemic" moment, she outlines a present that is confusing and a future that is hopeful.

Review: BETTY BUCKLEY & FRIENDS Deliver a Beautifully Thoughtful Evening at Joe's Pub
photo by Stephen Mosher

The thing that's wonderful about seeing Betty Buckley in concert is that you are always in store for something musically interesting. Her taste in tunes is eclectic and reaches far beyond the boundaries of her Broadway roots. She surrounds herself with first-class musicians who support her vision. Last night was no exception. Christian Jacob, her musical director has created a gallery of haunting arrangements and plays piano with a virtuosity that doesn't call attention to itself. He makes it look very easy. He leads an equally impressive band with Tony Marino on bass, Dan Rieser on drums, and Jordan Peters on guitar. Mr. Peters did some especially fine solo work. They were a dream team of sensitive and supportive players.

Review: BETTY BUCKLEY & FRIENDS Deliver a Beautifully Thoughtful Evening at Joe's Pub
photo by Stephen Mosher

As for Betty Buckley herself, she is in great form. Her control over her instrument is remarkable, singing soft and gently, making her audience wait for the clarion tones that are her trademark. But when it's time to belt, she delivers. She is masterful at creating musical monologues. For all her musical gifts you never forget that you are watching a great actress at work. She opened with a very soulful rendition of John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery." She followed with Sondheim's classic song about loss, "Not a Day Goes By." She gave us two very different views of relationships coming apart in Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" and "Where Do you Start?" the gorgeous Johnny Mandel song with lyrics by Alan and the recently departed Marilyn Bergman.

Review: BETTY BUCKLEY & FRIENDS Deliver a Beautifully Thoughtful Evening at Joe's Pub
photo by Stephen Mosher

She delivered on the friends part of the concert by welcoming Claire Moore, who continued the theme of loss with Jason Robert Brown's "Still Hurting" from The Last Five Years. Moore then joined her voice with Buckley's in "Fragile" by Sting. Jordan Peters on guitar did some amazing solo work in this number. One of the concert's highlights was a clever joining of "Heart Like a Wheel" with folk song "The Water Is Wide," made famous by James Taylor. Both songs are about being literally and figuratively unmoored.

Review: BETTY BUCKLEY & FRIENDS Deliver a Beautifully Thoughtful Evening at Joe's Pub
photo by Stephen Mosher

We had a special treat when Betty Buckley introduced her next guest. Another great actress, Veanne Cox recreated her show-stopping moment from the Roundabout revival of Company, ripping through "Getting Married Today" with breathless abandon. Claire Moore provided all the other characters in the number. Betty Buckley gave us a stunning arrangement of Cole Porter's "In the Still of the Night" which she followed with a new gem from Jason Robert Brown. "Love Again," an achingly vulnerable tune about a widow moving on was written by Brown as a present to his own mother. The two songs back to back were a particularly elegant construction.

Review: BETTY BUCKLEY & FRIENDS Deliver a Beautifully Thoughtful Evening at Joe's Pub
photo by Stephen Mosher

The concert ended with a new song by actor/composer Todd Almond. His "Moon Over Nebraska" was a fantastic song that reinforced Buckley's theme of being squarely in the present moment while looking hopefully to the future. She followed this up with Stephen Sondheim's marvelous treatise on loss, "No More" from Into the Woods. Betty Buckley performed it in a way that felt like a benediction to a soul-searching evening of great tunes and great thoughts. I felt a little lighter walking back into the beautiful spring night on Lafayette Street.

Review: BETTY BUCKLEY & FRIENDS Deliver a Beautifully Thoughtful Evening at Joe's Pub
photo by Stephen Mosher

Betty Buckley & FRIENDS is playing tonight- Monday, March 21 at 7 & 9:30 PM. For tickets and information, look up Joe's Pub at publictheatre.org. To learn more about Betty Buckley, go to bettybuckley.com or follow her @BettyBuckley on Twitter or @blbuckley on Instagram. Betty Buckley's music including her new release, Betty Buckley SINGS SONDHEIM is available on Spotify and all other streaming venues.


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