There’s a five-letter name for a four-footed female animal that is also frequently used to describe a certain type of woman. No, not that, dawg! We’re taking about a vixen! More specifically, about Betty Buckley singing “The Vixens of Broadway” for two weeks at Feinstein’s at the Nikko.
It’s not exactly the distaff side of last year’s “Ah, Men!” show. “I did that one because I was inspired by when I did ‘Edwin Drood’ on Broadway and realized there was all this cross gender casting at that time period in British music hall. I started thinking about all the great parts that are written for men in the musical theatre and how I would like to play some of them,” says the two-time tony winner. adding, “There’s one or two I know I could play.”
The show got raves and spawned a successful CD. “We were looking for a new show and came up with this idea,” says Buckley.
Buckley’s vixens are the second leads in women’s musical theatre roles. Those wise and often wisecracking characters who are usually the ingénue’s older sister or best friend. “Interestingly these second lead characters often get the show stoppers like Ado Annie in ‘Oklahoma!’ or Mama Morton in ‘Chicago.’ Mary Martin became famous playing that kind of part with ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ [in ‘Leave It To Me’].”
“I like the word vixen,” says Buckley. “It kind of sounds like what it is. Little foxes!” She’s not sure how much vixen she has in herself, but admits “I’ve always been a bit of a rebel, I guess.”
A favorite on the set list is “I Know Things Now” from “Into the Woods” by Stephen Sondheim. In the show Little Red Riding Hood sings it shortly after dispatching her Big Bad Wolf. “She’s really not the other woman, she’s the other girl,” says Buckley, “but she definitely has a mind of her own.” Buckley has a long history with the show. “I was the original Witch. I did the first workshop and the pre-Broadway workshop. I would sit in rehearsal and I was just enchanted listening to those kids sing the amazing monologue songs that Sondheim wrote for them. I especially loved Little Red Riding Hood’s song. It’s so clever.”
Buckley doesn't take the numbers too far out of the context of the original shows. “I’m pretty much straight ahead with these. Obviously I’d never be cast as Little Red Riding Hood, but I’m definitely entering the mindset of that moment where a teenage girl loses her innocence and comes into her worldliness, so to speak. I remember that moment for myself and can bring that to the song, which is part of its charm and why it appeals to me so much. It’s such an accurate piece about that moment.”
Betty Buckley appears through December 15 in “The Vixens of Broadway” at Feinstein’s at the Nikko with musical director Christian Jacobs on piano, Alan Hall on drums, and Daniel Fabricant on bass.