Named "The Voice of Broadway" by New York Magazine, Betty Buckley has belted out a respectable repertoire of Broadway standards. Earning her reputation from her definitive rendition of "Memory" in "Cats," the Tony Award-winning performer has dazzled audiences with leading roles in musicals ranging from "1776" to "Carrie," "Song & Dance," "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," "Pippin," and, more recently, as Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard" and Mama Rose in "Gypsy."

Despite this stellar list of credits to her name, there are still coveted roles that Buckley never got the chance to play — many of which are roles that were written for men.

She is a strong-willed Texan woman at heart, however, and so rather than accept defeat, Buckley changed the rules of the game. She simply wrote her favorite songs from traditionally male roles into her newest show.

Following a critically acclaimed run at Feinstein's at Loews Regency Hotel in New York, Buckley is bringing "Ah Men! The Boys of Broadway" to the Sunset Center in Carmel for one performance only this Saturday night.

Buckley will be accompanied by musical arranger Christian Jacob on piano, Peter Barshay on bass and Matt Betton on drums.

A limited number of VIP tickets are available, which include preferred seating as well as the opportunity to meet with Buckley after the show at a wine-and-cheese reception.


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This cabaret-style performance includes memorable songs from "West Side Story," "Guys and Dolls," "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," "Pippin," "Mame" and "La Cage aux Folles," as well as a suite of three songs from "Sweeney Todd," where Buckley renders each in a different male character from the musical.

"It's all the songs that men sing in Broadway shows that I've never gotten to sing, but that I've always loved," said Buckley, speaking over the phone from her ranch outside of Fort Worth, Texas.

Despite the premise of the show being that there are better roles written on Broadway for men than for women (one of Buckley's lines is "They do write strong women — I played them both"), Buckley maintains that there is no political message here, but rather a lighthearted tone of silliness, humor and fun.

"These are the songs I've always wanted to sing," she explained, adding, "Sometimes it's just me singing from the point of view of how I would like a man to talk to me."

Buckley admits she was influenced at an early age by a crush she had on the character Riff in "West Side Story."

At the age of 15, she played the dance part of Baby John's girlfriend — though she longed to play the part of Anybodys, the tomboy who got to hang out with the Jets all the time.

"I loved that show so much and I memorized it note for note — I keep threatening to do a concert of the entire 'West Side Story' show," Buckley mused. "The notion of a boy, Tony, being so in love with a girl that he sings her name over and over again — what's not to love?" So, of course, the song "Maria" is part of the "Ah Men!" repertoire, as well as "When You're a Jet."

Buckley's collaborators in the show, Eric Stern and Eric Kornfeld, wrote a humorous piece for the production, "A Hymn to Her," which plays off Henry Higgins' famous line from "My Fair Lady": "Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?"

When the show played at Feinstein's this past fall, it received rave reviews, including from New York Times critic Stephen Holden, who saw the show twice, visiting Buckley backstage with what she described as "wild enthusiasm" and urging her to record the show. So that's just what she's doing now, with a CD of the production scheduled for release later this year.

Meanwhile, Buckley divides her time between performing in front of live audiences, making film and TV appearances, teaching theater students, and relaxing on her ranch that she shares with 17 animal companions, ranging from horses to dogs, cats and a donkey.

"My life is really in two parts," she explained. "I spruce up and go sing songs for people, which is delightful, and then I come back here and I'm dusty and wearing my jeans. I'll go visit my mother, who lives about an hour away, and she'll say, 'You look like one of those ranch women who doesn't care what she looks like — go put on some lipstick.'"

Buckley is thrilled to perform "Ah Men!" in Carmel, which she claims as her favorite part of the world.

"For years, before every big project I'd go to Big Sur to prepare for whatever film or show I was about to do," she said. "I often go there to vacation and regroup because I think it's one of the prettiest places on the whole planet."

Lily Dayton can be reached at montereybaylily@gmail.com. GO!


PERFORMANCE

·What: Betty Buckley performs "Ah Men! The Boys of Broadway!"

·Where: Sunset Center, San Carlos Street at Ninth Avenue, Carmel

·When: 8 p.m. on Saturday,

Feb. 4

·Tickets: $79; VIP reception/preferred seating $125; available at box office (620-2048) or online at www.sunsetcenter.org

·Information: www.sunsetcenter.org, 620-2048