The “might have been” Buckley has trouble laying to rest, Gypsy. With Buckley as the stage mother to end all stage mothers, Rose.
It opened at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey in 1998 to excellent reviews and wildly enthusiastic audiences.
The Mirvish organization had a sudden gap in its schedule and wanted to bring it to Toronto.
But first, Arthur Laurents, author of the book, and Stephen Sondheim, lyricist of the songs, had to give it their stamp of approval.
For Buckley, it was more than just a show. It was a work that she had emotionally invested herself in fully, even working with a therapist to understand the complexities of the character.
The performance Laurents and Sondheim attended went very well. “I remember saying to the team, ‘Nailed it! If they don’t like that, there’s nothing we can do.’”
Sondheim was smiling and polite, but Laurents twisted the knife: “Obviously you’re a virtuoso, but you don’t know how to play Rose.”
Many years later, you can still hear pain in Buckley’s voice. “I kept my poise, but it took me many weeks to overcome my disappointment ... if I ever did. We were supposed to come to Toronto. I thought it was ridiculous to put all those people out of work.
“It was a sobering experience for me,” she adds. “Laurents was one of my idols. But I realized that a man can be a genius as an artist, but as a guy he’s just like everyone else. I’ve had a more sober eye and a more sober approach to show business ever since. I feel respect, reverence even. But no awe. Never again.”