'Cats' Musical Wiki

Betty Buckley is a Tony award-winning American actress and singer. She originated the role of Grizabella in the Broadway production of Cats, a role that earned her the 1983 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

She has appeared in numerous Broadway and West End shows, and is a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame. She received a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for her role as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, and a Tony Award nomination for her work in Triumph of Love. She is also a multi-time Grammy Award nominee.

Cats History[]

Broadway - 07/10/1982 - 04/1984 - Grizabella

Biography (1982)[]

BETTY BUCKLEY (Grizabella) was last seen on the N.Y. stage in I'm Getting My Act Together . . .; on screen: Abby Bradford on the series "Eight Is Enough"; Bruce Beresford's Tender Mercies; Brian De Palma's Carrie. On Broadway: Catherine in Pippin; the original Martha Jefferson in 1776; in London: Fran Kubelik in Promises, Promises.




Diva Talk: 8 Grizabellas, Including Betty Buckley and Elaine Paige, Share Their "Memory"s - Playbill.com, Sept 2016.

Betty Buckley - Originated the role in the 1982 Broadway production, winning a Tony Award for her performance.

How long did it take you to get into full Grizabella makeup each night?
BB: Nine minutes flat. The joke around the theatre was that I threw my makeup in the air and ran under it. While some of the Cats did intricate paintings on their faces each night, my makeup, designed by our designer John Napier with the assistance of a makeup artist, was like a charcoal pencil sketch. At my request, Georgette Klinger made a special grey base for me that wouldn't hurt my skin as some of the thick pancake makeup did. The stage managers didn't believe me when I told them I could do my makeup in nine minutes, so my brilliant dresser, Ms. Marcie Olivi, and I challenged them to a bet. People placed their bets, and on the appointed day I arrived at the theatre, and the stage manager with a stopwatch clocked me. I ran from the Stage Door check in, up the stairs to my dressing room out of full winter gear into makeup, body suit, mike pack, leg warmers, arm warmers, wig and shoes for the opening number. Marci and I nailed it! Nine minutes flat! We won a lot of money.

What is the pressure/challenge like of having to deliver "Memory," the vocally demanding song everyone waits for all evening?
BB: I had never had a job assignment “Stop the Show!” It was daunting. For the weeks of previews, I was not stopping the show. My wonderful voice teacher, the brilliant Paul Gavert, showed me the way. I immersed myself in meditation and prayer from which inspiration led to my following homeless women on the streets of NYC. Two beautiful homeless women whose hair and makeup were similar to Grizabella’s crossed my path. They connected with my heart and soul in a way that provided guidance and inspiration. The gist of the message I received was simply this: "There but for the Grace of God, go I." It took about two weeks of incorporating all I was learning into my performance. Ultimately, I was able to discover in Grizabella's journey through the show, a wide open heart of sharing with the audience in the "Cri de Coeur" that is "Memory." Two nights before the opening night, I sang the song from a depth of sharing that I had never experienced before. There was a moment of breathless silence, and, then, the audience went crazy! It was amazing! A complete blessing.

Was there any one performance of "Memory" that stands out in your mind as your best ever?
BB: Singing "Memory," then, in the show, and now, in concert for all these years, is always such an exquisite experience for me. Grizabella is my teacher, my soulmate and one of my dearest friends. It is always such a joy to visit her each time I sing her song. And she continues to teach me new things every time I get to experience her, in the place in my heart and soul, where she resides. She is an extraordinary creature, and I love her with all my heart. The gift of "Memory" in my life is an enormous blessing.

What was the most memorable onstage Cats mishap—either your own or by a fellow cast member?
BB: Well, I hesitate to share this, but it was pretty funny. When you have a cold and still must perform, it is hugely challenging. One night, I was suffering this awful cold, and in the middle of "Memory" before my last verse, I went down on my hands and knees. The little white cat is singing, while I was choreographed to prepare Grizabella’s resting place in a quasi kneel. Tears were streaming down my face and my nose was running, and as I came up for the "Touch me, it’s so easy to leave me" section, a line of mucous made an arc through the air still attached to my nose. I saw this silver line stretching about two feet in space and used my "paw" to fling it away. I witnessed all the cats onstage, watching me in horror and cringing in disgust. It was hilarious!

Why do you think the musical has endured?
BB: I think it is a beautiful piece of “Art in Motion.” It is beautifully designed, and all the cats are versions of people in our world of materialism and ego. T.S. Eliot's satire is brilliant. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music is beautiful, poignant and playful. Gillian Lynne’s great choreography (and the homage paid to her by Andy Blankenbuehler) is iconic, wonderful and inspiring to behold. Trevor Nunn’s brilliant direction and his gorgeous lyric of "Memory," and message about the beauty and dignity inherent in that which we fear most, aging and dying, are universal. I love the show and treasure the time I got to live on that set as Grizabella. I will always be eternally grateful to Andrew, Trevor, John and Gillian for the opportunity to work with and learn from them. The show deserves to live "Now and Forever."

What version of “Memory” —other than your own— do you admire?
BB: I'm not really that familiar with other ladies’ versions. I liked Diane Fratantoni's version. She was my standby when I did the show. And, I also liked hearing Loni Ackerman's version when she went on.