Betty Buckley's Students Fill The Modern With Music, Tonight

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"It's my responsibility to pass on what I know," says Tony-winning singer and actress Betty Buckley. The Fort Worth native pays it forward artistically with her series of Song Interpretation and Monologue Master Classes, focusing on storytelling through song. Taught by Buckley at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth over the past seven years, the classes have launched dozens of students into elite college music programs and into professional musical theater.

The latest session, an intensive course that began in March, culminated last night with the first of two concert performances titled "Story Songs III." The second is tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium at the museum and is open to the public.

Clocking in at roughly two hours, Buckley's 10 budding divas - Macy Crowe, Angela Davis, Kristi Dodge, Kirsten Gallon, Marjorie Hayes, Terri Lynn Kavanaugh, Kendall Lannin, Tiffany Morgan, Willene Owens Luper, Miranda Willis - and one divo, James Worley, belt show tunes, emote through ballads and hone their comedy chops with novelty numbers such as "Little Girls" from Annie and "Gooch's Song" from Mame.

Crowe, at 14 the youngest in the group, wowed the crowd with "Tomorrow" (the old standby from Annie) by not over-singing it (the crime of so many TV talent show auditioners). She also added great girlish charm to "The Girl I Meant to Be" from Broadway's The Secret Garden.

Veteran local actress Hayes, who has taken Buckley's master classes several times, brought ferocious energy to "Could I Leave You?" from Follies and softened her style for the lovely ballad "Bali H'ai" from South Pacific. Hayes currently is playing Bloody Mary in Garland Summer Musicals' production of that Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.

Among other standouts in the recital: Luper, who sang several full-throated numbers from the musical version of The Color Purple and closed out the evening with a rousing "Home" from The Wiz; Lannin, performing the oddly touching "Blue Hair," about a young girl trying to get a boy's attention by tinting her tresses, from Joe Iconis' show The Black Suits; Morgan, giving plenty of comedy fire power to "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun" from Annie Get Your Gun; and SMU grad student Davis, the most mature singer on the program, sounding like a young Judy Collins during her best solo, "Ashbury 1943" from Dogfight.

With a career that includes guest shots on current TV shows (Pretty Little Liar) and cabaret gigs at swanky joints like Feinstein's in Manhattan, why does Betty Buckley take time to teach young singers? "When I go to the theater, I want to see great work," she said after last night's recital, which she directed. "This is where that starts."

Buckley's taking her master class on the road, teaching July 9-12 in Denver, July 16-20 in Los Angeles and August 5-9 in August. For more info about her class, go here.

Story Songs III, featuring 11 of Buckley's most recent students, with Adam C. Wright on piano, performs its second and last concert at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, at the Fort Worth Modern. Call 817-738-9215 for tickets.

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