Betty Buckley, ZTA, the Public Theater, and Sweeney Todd

When I am in the car, I usually listen to the Broadway Channel on satellite radio. I remember hearing Seth Rudetsky, one of the channel’s hosts, tell a story about Betty Buckley. As I was driving at the time, I couldn’t write it down or try to memorize it because, after all, driving is a dangerous business. Here is the gist of it as I recall. Betty Buckley’s mother encouraged her to be in the Miss Fort Worth pageant. She won that title in 1966 and competed in the Miss Texas competition where she was first runner-up. For some reason, as I recall Rudetsky saying, the Miss America pageant people invited Buckley to perform at the pageant that year even though she was not competing for the Miss America title.


She went, she sang, she left Atlantic City and went back to Texas Christian University where she was a member of Zeta Tau Alpha. But she had been spotted by a talent agent and when she returned to New York to give Broadway a go, almost immediately she was cast in the role of Martha Jefferson in 1776.

Buckley won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Grizabella in Cats. A tweet on my twitterfeed made me rue the fact that I live in the exact middle of nowhere, because I would love to go to see her in person.

rt The Betty Buckley Page “Debuting the music from my new GHOSTLIGHT CD , Oct. 7-11, (7…

From October 7-11, 2014, Buckley will be debuting the music from her new album, Ghostlight. She’ll be at Joe’s Pub in New York City in the Public Theater’s building. It was originally the Astor Library at 425 Lafayette Street at Astor Place.

I loved the fact that in a Texas Monthly article about the things she keeps on the piano at her home, Buckley describes one of the pictures. She said, “These are my two best friends from TCU, Harriett Adams and Cherry Haymes. We were Zeta Tau Alpha sorority sisters together.” In another article about her dressing room for the 1995 performance of Sunset Boulevard, the room’s designer was Dallas decorator Harriet Adams, Buckley’s ZTA big sister, and one of the women in that picture.

To get info on the concert and to hear her sing a selection from the album, visit

Also on the page about Buckley’s performance there is a note that the “LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust provides leadership support for The Public Theater’s year-round activities.” Mertz, a co-founder of The Publisher’s Clearinghouse, was initiated into my chapter of Pi Beta Phi at Syracuse University in 1924. One of the spaces in the Public Theater is named the LuEsther in her honor.


And in another musical connection, the Live from Lincoln Center series on PBS opens this Friday Friday, September 26, 2014 with a performance of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street in Concert with The New York Philharmonic. Check your local PBS listings for the time it will be airing. The previews are wonderful and I can’t wait to watch it!

For a post about Stephen Sondheim, a member of Beta Theta Pi, see

 © Fran Becque,, 2014. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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