Amazing meets A-MAH-zing

My daughter Lizabeth poses with Broadway legend Betty Buckley

Those of you who are puzzling over the title of this post clearly weren’t lucky enough to snag tickets to see the amazing Betty Buckley perform at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts last week with piano and comedic accompaniment by the “A-MAH-zing” Seth Rudetsky.

For all the time we spend with Rudetsky via our car radio and the SiriusXM Radio “On Broadway” channel, he might as well be my fourth kid. He certainly seems eccentric enough to be one of us.

Rudetsky opened last week’s show with tales of his own childhood foray into live musical theater productions like “HAIR” at an age when most kids can’t even spell four letter words. Many related to film clips projected onto a giant screen — including my personal favorite from a horror flick called “Carrie” (something folks my age saw during the waning days of drive-in movies).

Soon Rudetsky was introducing Buckley, known to many for her amazing performance in the musical “Cats,” which features the song “Memory” — a little number Buckley now calls her “signature song.” Other songs she performed that evening included “Meadowlark,” “Send in the Clowns,” and even “There’s a Fine, Fine Line” (from the bawdy “Avenue Q”).

My daughter, Lizabeth, may have been the only teen in the house that night. It seems Lady Gaga was also performing in the Valley, and while we admire her work on- and off-stage — we’re going to see if she’s got Buckley’s staying power before we go gaga for one of her gigs.

Buckley opened this Scottsdale concert (I’m told it was her third) with “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from “Sunset Boulevard.” The piece was requested by, and dedicated to, Linda and Sherman Saperstein, who were celebrating their wedding anniversary that evening and graciously stood while Buckley led the crowd in singing “Happy Anniversary to You.”

I noticed in reading my program that the concert was “presented with support from Linda and Sherman Saperstein.” I was delighted to meet Mr. Saperstein after the show, and offered my heartfelt thanks for the couple’s support of arts and culture. Without such generous souls, many of us would never get to experience a bit of the magic of Broadway in our own hometown.

The “Broadway by Request” show is a blend of beautiful vocal stylings and storytelling. Buckley drops plenty of names along the way — Stephen Sondheim, Bob Fosse and others that might take you by surprise.

Buckley’s passion for performance, and musical theater, was evident in each anecdote, as she proffered with panache her theater experiences from school days through today. Seems Buckley got her first gig from her first audition — on her first day in New York City.

But life in the theater isn’t all smooth sailing, as evidenced by her tales of an egregious agent Buckley had to do away with in short order. A single thread seemed to tie all of Buckley’s stories together. The woman never stopped knocking on doors — or pounding, frankly, if that’s what it took to land the roles of her dreams.

Buckley complimented the Scottsdale crowd for its sophistication after a few of her therapy-related revelations were accepted with warmth and good humor. Apparently some folks in the Midwest react to similar material by casting a pall over the theater. Buckley recalled the day her therapist, dismissed shortly thereafter, gave her advice we’ve all heard at one time or another (usually for free): “Get over it.”

After Buckley shared several songs featuring especially glorious belting, Rudetsky sent her offstage for “two cups of hot tea” — then took over the mic to demonstrate one of his own great passions: “Deconstructing.” He explained in detail the intricacies of Buckley’s vocal performance, then played a sample of her singing as he talked the audience through each element.

Buckley and Rudetsky (who has admired Buckley’s work since boyhood) make a powerful pair. Rudetsky caresses the keys like Buckley caresses the air — and both have genuine flair.

Lizabeth and Seth Rudetsky

Buckley and Rudetsky enjoyed a lengthy standing ovation after wrapping the show, and another after an encore featuring a single haunting song. Both graciously stayed long after the concert to autograph programs, CDs and such. We were thrilled to chat with them briefly, and I couldn’t resist the urge to solicit advice for Lizabeth as she heads off to study theater.

Buckley’s offered a single word: “Practice.” Seth had a great deal more to say (all of it good) but seemed genuinely puzzled about why, when Lizabeth rattled off the list of colleges/conservatories on her “short list” of favorites, she didn’t mention Oberlin College & Conservatory — his own alma mater. We love Rudetsky’s loyalty, and want to assure him that Oberlin tops the list of plenty of students at Arizona School for the Arts.

Now if only there was a “Seth-mobile” bumper sticker for the teen taxi that routinely blasts “Seth’s Big Fat Broadway” during all those drives between home, school and theater adventures…

— Lynn

Coming up: Bald chairs?, Fiddling around in Alaska, How hip is “HOP?”

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