She wowed critics and audiences on both sides of the Atlantic as faded silent screen star Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard. Now, Betty Buckley will portray another fictional actress — a television star and Buffalo native named Amanda, in A. R. Gurney's new play, Buffalo Gal.
Gurney's new play begins previews March 17 at Buffalo's Studio Arena Theatre with an official opening set for March 21. John Tillinger, who directed Gurney's Sylvia and Love Letters Off-Broadway, is at the helm this production, which co-stars Mary Beth Fisher (Jackie), Julian Gamble (Dan), Eddie Korbich (Roy), Aiko Nakasone (Debbie) and Jonathan Earl Peck as James. The production also features sets by Jim Noone, costumes by Laura Churba, lighting by Jim Vermeulen and sound by Rick Menke. Don Rebic is music director.
Buffalo Gal marks Buckley's second appearance at the famed regional theatre having appeared in the world premiere of Neal Dubrock's A Very Private Life during the Arena's 1976-77 season. Best known for her work in such musicals as 1776, Pippin, Carrie, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Cats, Song & Dance, Sunset Boulevard and The Triumph of Love, Buckley has also been a major presence on film ("Carrie," "Tender Mercies," the upcoming "Noon Blue Apples") and television ("Eight Is Enough," HBO's "Oz") while performing in concerts throughout the country.
In this new work, Buckley portrays a television actress who returns to her hometown of Buffalo to star in the lead role of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. The real comedy begins when Buckley's character discovers "that not only are Buffalo and Hollywood located worlds apart, [but] so are the realities of stage and TV."
Much attention will be paid to the opening of Gurney's newest work, as there is speculation that the play may transfer to New York City if reviews are favorable. Playwright Gurney, who himself is a Buffalo native, recently told Playbill On-Line that commercial Broadway producer Julian Schlossberg is attached to the project. "It all depends on how we do up there," said the author of Love Letters, What I Did Last Summer, The Snow Ball, The Dining Room and Far East. Gurney also added that any New York City transfer would not be to a nonprofit house, but to a commercial Off-Broadway theatre. Buffalo Gal tickets are available by calling (716) 856 5650 or (800) 77STAGE. For more information, go to www.studioarena.org.
Buffalo Gal originally premiered at the Williamstown Theatre Festival's Nikos Stage in June 2001 with Mariette Hartley in the lead. That production was set to star Mary Tyler Moore, but the Emmy-winning actress was forced to withdraw due to health reasons.
Buckley will perform a solo concert on April 8 at the Studio Arena to benefit the theatre company. Tickets are now available at the box office and range from $85 to $150. Buckley will include several songs from her newest recording, the Grammy nominated "Stars and the Moon: Betty Buckley Live at the Donmar," as well as her signature tune, "Memory."
—By Andrew Gans