Actress/singer Betty Buckley has starred in numerous theatrical productions, as well as making appearances in film and television, but she is perhaps best known for her role as Grizabella in the Broadway version of Cats and her corresponding performance of the show's signature number, "Memory."
Betty Lynn Buckley was born on July 3, 1947, in Fort Worth, Texas; at age 11, she attended a production of The Pajama Game and fell irrevocably in love with the theater, studying vocalists like Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald to develop her technique. After getting a degree in journalism from Texas Christian and touring with a USO troupe, Buckley found her way to New York, where in 1969 she landed the Broadway role of Martha Jefferson in 1776. She moved to London later in the year, where she starred in Neil Simon's Promises, Promises, and spent the next five years acting in both London and New York, as well as portraying the gym teacher in the 1976 Stephen King film Carrie.
In 1977, Buckley achieved national recognition with her role as the stepmother on the television series Eight Is Enough; she landed roles in such films as Tender Mercies and musicals like I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It On the Road. When Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats made the jump from London to Broadway, Buckley was tapped to portray Grizabella; in spite of the character's trademark song, "Memory," having been a hit single for London cast member Elaine Paige, with versions also recorded by Barbra Streisand and Judy Collins, Buckley acquitted herself so well that she was awarded the 1983 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. She went on to appear in productions of The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1985), Song and Dance (1986), and the short-lived Broadway version of Carrie (1988; this time portraying the religious mother).
In the late '80s and '90s, Buckley has appeared in the films Frantic (1988) and Wyatt Earp (1994) and the play Sunset Boulevard (1994). In addition to her cast recordings, Buckley has also recorded a series of albums, both live and in the studio, mostly consisting of show tunes. The first, 1987's Betty Buckley, featured several of the singer's own compositions; 1993's Children Will Listen returned her to more standards territory, and 1994's With One Look diversified her range a bit, with covers of Hank Williams, Joni Mitchell, and Mary-Chapin Carpenter. 1997's Much More was followed two years later by Betty Buckley's Broadway. Heart to Heart appeared in the spring of 2000. She released two albums in February of 2008, Quintessence, which featured jazz arrangements of standards by pianist Kenny Werner, and 1967, a recording made when Buckley was just 19 years old. The T-Bone Burnett-produced Ghostlight appeared in 2012. ~ Steve Huey