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Betty Buckley Talks ‘Hello, Dolly!’

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Betty Buckley & Hello, Dolly! National Tour Company - 2018, Julieta Cervantes

The Tony Award-winning Best Musical Revival of Hello, Dolly!, starring Broadway legend, Tony Award winner Betty Buckley, in its first national tour will play at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts through December 2 and then from Dec 4 through Dec 9 at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

Ms. Buckley will be joined by Lewis J. Stadlen (Horace Vandergelder), Nic Rouleau (Cornelius Hackl), Analisa Leaming (Irene Molloy), Jess LeProtto (Barnaby Tucker), Kristen Hahn (Minnie Fay), Garett Hawe (Ambrose Kemper), Morgan Kirner (Ermengarde), and Jessica Sheridan (Ernestina).

Led by four-time Tony Award-winning director Jerry Zaks and choreographed by Tony Award winner Warren Carlyle, the entire creative team of the Broadway production reprises their roles for the national tour of Hello, Dolly!, including four-time Tony Award winner Santo Loquasto (Scenic & Costume Design), six-time Tony Award winner Natasha Katz (Lighting Design), Tony Award winner Scott Lehrer (Sound Design), Andy Einhorn (Music Supervision), Robert Billig (Music Direction), Tony Award winner Larry Hochman. 

Hotspots and BroadwayWorld.com (Julie Musbach) sat down with Betty for this interview:

At what age did singing and acting become interests of yours and when did you know singing and acting were going to officially be your career?

My aunt was a dance teacher and my mother was a singer and a dancer so they told me I sang in church when I was two, and studied dance when I was three. When I was 11, I saw my first Broadway show and was bitten by Bob Fosse and knew my interest was in this form. My mother also had an extensive collection of cast albums and great lady singers and that’s what really taught me to sing. My first professional job was when I was 15. I did shows at our local theater every summer after that.

Who were your inspirations in the recording industry?

There have been so many…Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Della Reese, Nancy Wilson…I was also very inspired by Brazilian Dori Caymmi, Keith Jarrett, Michael McDonald, Steely Dan, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, and many more.

Do you remember how it felt when they called your name as the winner of the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Cats, and can you describe it to me?

I was pretty excited. It was an amazing time being a member of the Cats team and doing that show brought me through the doorway to work with Andrew Lloyd Webber. His whole team taught me so much.

How amazing was it and what did it mean to you to be inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame?

It was really nice and a huge honor. I didn’t get to go to my induction ceremony as I was in London, so the following year I got to induct my friend Ellen Burstyn which made up for it. I feel so grateful that I have been included.

How did this incredible offer of starring in Hello, Dolly! come to you?

I had just gotten a job on Preacher on AMC and was in New Orleans starting work on that. My agent called and said ‘Are you sitting down?’ and I said ‘No’ and he said ‘Scott Rudin wants you to do Hello, Dolly!’ and all I could say was ‘Oh my god, I’ll have to call you back.’ I was literally pacing my hotel suite thinking ‘can I do this? This is huge, it’s such a huge part.’ I called him back and I said yes, if they think I can do it I’ll do it. A week later they flew me to New York to meet with Jerry Zaks and Scott Rudin and they were so lovely and had such conviction about me being able to do it.

Had you seen the show on Broadway? What did you think of it?

I saw the show before The Tony Awards and I just thought it was the greatest production of Hello, Dolly! I’d ever seen and probably one of the greatest pieces of musical theatre I’ve ever seen. In fact, I was standing weeping with joy at the end of the show along with the rest of the audience. When Bette Midler made her last cross down the passerelle at the curtain call and everyone is reaching up trying to touch her, I was in the second row and I was reaching up trying to touch her too! I just thought it was the perfect show. Santo Loquasto‘s design, the costumes, the choreography, it’s all out of this world. Jerry Zak’s direction is freaking genius and Bette was like the greatest ice cream sundae I’ve ever seen. You just wanted to scoop her up she’s so delicious.

What do you tap into to bring such a big character to life on stage?

It’s magic all its own. My whole process is based on meditation as well as listening really closely to what the director says and what the choreographer says. I try to stay in the immediate present reality with my partners on stage, it’s a give and take reality. In this case learning the lines is huge and just finding an inner journey within that that makes sense. I’ve also been doing research including reading The Matchmaker which the musical is based on to get into the right mindset.

All in all, how would you sum up your experience so far?

A gift. Every morning I’m on my knees with gratitude and every night the last thing I think about is how incredibly appreciative I am to be a part of this.

Tickets to Hello, Dolly! are available through at Drphillipscenter.org with tickets starting at $39.25 and at StrazCenter.org with tickets starting at $60.

For more on Betty Buckley, go to BettyBuckley.com.

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