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Pop Music Reviews : Buckley Off Stride

June 28, 1986|DON HECKMAN

The last decade has seen Betty Buckley stride from TV stardom ("Eight Is Enough") to Broadway glitter ("Cats" and "The Mystery of Edwin Drood"), with a few significant movie stops in between ("Carrie" and "Tender Mercies").

Now, Buckley's decided to be a singer-songwriter as well. It may be a giant step too soon. Thursday night at the Beverly Theatre, she unveiled a musical presentation that was long on original material and short on interest.

Backed by a synthesizer-dominated band, Buckley sang what seemed, at times, to be an interminable series of introspectively thoughtful songs, most of them written with her orchestrator, Michel Colombier, or guitarist Lyle Mays.

To her credit, Buckley is a superb stage actress whose sheer presence creates an emotional credibility lacking in her lyrics. On the few occasions when she turned to work with greater density (Stephen Schwartz's "Meadowlark," and Stephen Sondheim's "I Remember" and "Pretty Women"), her adroit mixture of spoken/sung lines was right on the dramatic target.

But Buckley is handicapped by a vocal timbre, which, appropriate though it may be for last-chorus belting (as on her version of "Memories" from "Cats"), sounds pinched and thin in smaller-scaled moments.

The vocal instrument is clearly a good one, but it has not yet developed a musical vocabulary wide enough to make effective use of her extraordinary theatrical resources.

Buckley performs again at the Beverly Theatre tonight.

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