When Idol Judge Randy Jackson Says "You're Too Broadway," Betty Buckley Takes It Personally

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Don't hold back, Betty.

Tony Award winner and Fort Worth resident Betty Buckley watches American Idol. She loves American Idol. But she's about to blow a gasket over Idol judge Randy Jackson's putdowns of some of the singers who have what he deems to be a bit too much vibrato. Whenever Jackson rejects a singer, saying "You're too Broadway," Buckley starts to steam.

On Twitter Thursday, Buckley, who's starred in lots of Broadway shows, including Cats, Sunset Boulevard, Pippin and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, typed a series of 140-character rants about Idol, Jackson and the whole "too Broadway" insult. To get the longer version, we got Ms. Buckley on the phone and told her to let it rip. She did. Go, Betty:

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"I always watch Idol and I'm revving up to watch it tonight. But Randy Jackson, he makes me sick. Every time he disses Broadway, I'm like, who are you kidding? It drives me mad! First of all, Broadway is a place. It's not a style. The great composers like Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, the Gershwins, those early composers of the classic Broadway days, they all wrote different types of music. Today musical theater -- that's the real term to use -- is really vast. There are all kinds of composers for Broadway and all kinds of success in that realm. Musical theater is an American art form, an indigenous American art form. Who the heck is this guy to diss it?

"There's a resurgence of musical theater in television and film, i.e. shows like Glee and this new show Smash. People are doing musical numbers in all kinds of comedy shows. The form is consistently used in the pop-rock concert arena. All big pop-rock shows are fantastic theater these days, with massive instrumentation, massive set and lighting design. With singers and dancers, the whole bit. Randy Jackson is a freakin' bass player with some success as a music producer. He doesn't like a certain kind of vibrato in the sound of a voice. But that doesn't mean it's a 'Broadway voice.'

"Audra McDonald [currently starring on Broadway in The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess] is an opera singer with a four-octave range. But you wouldn't call her just a Broadway voice. Kristin Chenoweth is a star on Broadway and on television. My peer group -- Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters -- we have very disparate kinds of voices.

"All human voices have vibrato. Even Ella Fitzgerald had a vibrato. Aretha Franklin has a vibrato. [Jackson] takes the singers he does not like and he puts them in the category of Broadway. And I want to spit! I completely respect him. But I do not respect this recurring theme and commentary about an art form that deserves nothing but respect. To be successful in musical theater is a rare and blessed thing. How dare he belittle that form and those of us who are in it?

"Many pop singers have vibrato. It's, like, what is your problem, dude? It makes me so mad. Mainly because I loathe that people lie to the American public and especially to kids to whom Idol is the center of the universe.

"Look at Constantine Maroulis [who starred on Broadway in Rock of Ages and will star in the next Broadway revival of Jekyll & Hyde], Fantasia Barrino, who did The Color Purple on Broadway. Diana DeGarmo [Brooklyn the Musical and Hairspray). Jennifer Hudson, who did Dreamgirls, which was musical theater on film. They all came from American Idol.

"It's certain voices [Randy Jackson] doesn't like. I can do a straight tone. Some people sing with pure straight tones. But there's always some subtle form of vibrato.

"What I resent is that he is educating in his forum on television and on this TV show -- he's coming off as some kind of authority in general. He keeps making these stupid comments.

"Steven Tyler [another Idol judge], I love him, but he completely wrecked the national anthem at the playoff game. And he turns to Randy Jackson after one of those 'too Broadway' comments and he says 'they learn that.' It's ignorant and stupid.

"The Voice [NBC's vocal talent show] doesn't make that kind of commentary at all. They don't categorize. [Judges] Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine and CeeLo Green all have vibrato.

"[Jackson's comments] suggest that musical theater singers are in a lesser position than pop music singers. We maybe don't make as much money as they do, but so what? It's an art form. He should just say, 'That's not the voice I want to hear.' He shouldn't say, 'That's too Broadway.'

"The point is, musical theater is an indigenous American art form. It deserves nothing but respect. It encompasses many kinds of voices, styles and composers. You cannot say that one voice or another is a Broadway voice. It isn't. It's just a human voice unique to that individual. In Randy Jackson's commentary, he is educating a whole group of young people in America to demean one type of voice. It's absurd. All of the great singers have vibrato. It's the sound of the human voice."

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And on that note (a high one, given Betty Buckley's incredible range), we'll tell you that you can learn to sing better in Ms. Buckley's Song Interpretation master classes. A new session begins February 22 at Fort Worth's Modern Art Museum. For more info, go to here. You can also see her finished products when her students perform a concert showcase called "Story Songs" in May at the Modern.

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12 comments
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Carrnival
Carrnival

You're so right Betty Lynn! First, Randy needs to get the fact that "Broadway IS a place, not a musical style"! Perhaps he should go to some "Broadway" shows and educate himself!

JhonJhonJhonJhon
JhonJhonJhonJhon

Nice to hear someone that actually knows what she is talking about, talk about music. BB is a pro and it shows. 

Stephanie  Beames
Stephanie Beames

Who is Randy Jackson anyway. We have given him the power to say anything he wants, just because he's on television. I guess having a natural vibrato in the voice scares him. I put my faith in somebody like Betty Buckley, who even when dissing that pompous ass, always acts with respect towards the human voice.

ducdebrabant
ducdebrabant

Randy Jackson is an ass.  His affectations, like calling everybody "dog", are ridiculous.  His shirts are ridiculous.  And his opinions are sometimes ridiculous and sometimes ridiculously expressed.  What does "pitchy" mean?  Were they flat?  Were they sharp?  And where?  There could be a drinking game for Jackson's use of the word "pitchy."

Rick Williams
Rick Williams

Who really cares what any of the AI judges say- they are all idiots

Jane Coyne
Jane Coyne

Glad to see this post. I, too, watch American Idol very frequently. I never understand what is wrong with "sounding" Broadway. Seems to me that Broadway music outsells and outlasts most of the music that exists, certainly over time. There are good singers and not very good singers appearing on American Idol. They perform good music and some that is not so good. I think Randy should take a lesson from my dear friend Duke Ellington, who once responded to the question, "What kind of music, other than jazz, do you most enjoy?" His answer? "Good." 

Hezichiah
Hezichiah

I sang a Celine Dion song exactly as she does in my audition in 2006 and Randy toldme the exact same thing. I think it's just his ignorant default answer. My biggest problem with the show, well most talent shows, is that they don't ever have judges that know anything about vocal pedagogy. I'd LOVE it if they could talk about the anatomy of the voice in giving criticism so these not-so-great singers could learn something and improve.

Althea
Althea

one of my vocal students, when auditioning for Canadian Idol (Canadian version of American Idol), which btw is no longer on the air, was told she sounded 'too Broadway' -  she was so disappointed in not going to the next round - my comment to her was she could not have received a better compliment regarding her voice and abilities  - she is capable of mastering so many styles and has been an employed working actor/singer since she was awarded the role of Maria in Andrew LLoyd Webber's production of Sound of Music....am i proud? you bet!

Jdyville
Jdyville

Amen! Betty!!! Love IDOL but it is true - every word you said. STOP putting Down MUSICAL THEATRE, Randy.

Dr. Rev. Harper
Dr. Rev. Harper

I Love Betty Buckley! Right on, Diva of Broadway!  Mr. Jackson is a pompous ass.

Byter
Byter

The little bit of " American Idol " that I've seen sounds as much as a wailing contest as singing. There were moments but for the most part it's all grimacing and wailing.

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