photo: TwitterMany "American Idol" alums--notably Fantasia Barrino, Constantine Maroulis, and Clay Aiken--have gone on to great success on Broadway, but ironically, Broadway has always gotten a bad rap from the judges on "Idol." Ever since the Simon Cowell days, "too Broadway" has been a common criticism on the show, and now with Simon gone, it seems like remaining original judge Randy Jackson has taken up the show's unofficial anti-Broadway crusade. Last week, one of my favorite Season 11 contestants so far, the purple-haired Angie Zeiderman, auditioned with "When You've Got It Flaunt It" from The Producers, and while she eventually got a golden ticket--only after singing a second, non-Broadway song, "Blue Bayou"--she almost didn't, because her more theatrical first number displeased The Dawg. "The showtunes, that turns me off," Randy grumbled. "The problem is that it brings out that vibrato I don't like."
Well, on Thursday, Betty Buckley, a Tony Award-winning stage veteran probably best known for her remarkable rendition of "Memory" from Cats, got fed up with "Idol's anti-Broadway bias, and with Randy in particular. And she therefore let it rip on Twitter, in a rant that was actually more entertaining than many of Season 11's "Idol" auditions.
Opting to direct most of her Twitter wrath at the show's producer, Nigel Lythgoe (he himself a veteran song-and-dance man), Betty began:
"OK, I just have to say this: I am sick & tired of Randy Jackson bashing what they think is Bway singing! It's soo ludicrous! I have yet to see or hear anyone sound remotely like they are a theatre singer on Idol!! And, further, theatrical singing encompasses every kind of sound, voice & style. He doesn't know what he's talkin' about!! And by these constant disses he is tellin' Amer. kids that Bway is some kind of inferior art form. Next to jazz, Broadway is the only indigenous Amer. art form & with respect, 'Dog', your opinion is whack & uninformed!"
"I mean, I respect Randy Jackson & everyone certainly has their own likes & dislikes, but THIS constant diss of 'Bway' sounding, to his ear, singers is just so ignorant & stupid that I literally cannot comprehend the producers allowing such mendacity in his remarks! Beyond idiotic!!! And when Steven Tyler remarked, 'They learn that', I thought I was gonna scream!! All human voices have vibrato in one form or another! This constant STUPID reference is beneath contempt & I gotta say, too, that all big 'rock/pop' shows these days are frickin' THEATRE! SOOO, Nigel Lithgow & company, in a world that includes an increase in the popularity of musical in general in theatre, film & television America Idol needs to WAKE UP to the truth, voices are voices, singing is singing in all forms, styles & genres. These categories have nothing to do with anything. The Record business in general is in big trouble & why for frickin' sake would you the creators of 'Idol' risk losing & demeaning any well intended audience. You respond to a singer because you hear their soul or you do not! ENOUGH!! I'VE HAD IT!!"
And she concluded with:
"Oh, & one more thing: Broadway is a place, not a style. At one time, in early days of classic Bway, Rodgers, Hamerstein, Hart, Lerner & Loew, Gershwin, Tin Pan Alley & company one could say there was a style, a consistency in construct. But not any more. All kinds of composers and singers and styles on Broadway. And that's been true since the 60′s. I would venture to say that the 'Dog' & powers that be don't get much. Write them, people, & tell them how absolute off frickin' base this is! x"
At this point, Nigel Lythgoe responded, saying, "I don't believe I have ever dissed Broadway either in IDOL or SYTYCD. As far as I am concerned it is a Mecca for talent."
The conversation then actually got civilized--a rarity on Twitter nowadays, when tempers can quickly escalate in the time it takes to type 140 characters--with Betty responding, "Thank you, Nigel. I'm addressing Randy Jackson's need to call singers he doesn't respond to 'Broadway'. As the producer, I would think Jackson's comments about vibratos he doesn't like or singers he doesn't like as categorically Bway ignorant & inappropriate. I am a huge fan of SYTYCD & Idol. Have watched from the beginning. Your shows are gifts to the arts & allow so many talented young people, singers, dancers & choreographers great opportunity! I am addressing one point-Jackson's need to categorically diss 'Broadway'. It is a place. Musical Theatre as a form encompasses many styles & a wide variety of individual voices. Also the form of Musical Theatre is a form currently in vogue in television, film & certainly all great Pop/Rock concerts are hugely theatrical. Please understand I am saying all of this with respect to you, your shows & the joy they give to us."
Betty and Nigel's debate continued cordially, over the course of many back-and-forth tweets, wrapping up with Betty asking Nigel to speak with Randy, Nigel assuring her he would do so, and the two complimenting each other's work. It remains to be seen what will come of all this, but I think...BETTY BUCKLEY SHOULD BE A GUEST MENTOR ON "IDOL"! Who's with me on this? Clearly Betty is a woman with a vast musical knowledge who's unafraid to express her mind, and that more than qualifies her for the gig. I actually consider her Twitter rant to be her unofficial "Idol" audition.
And if Nigel doesn't bring Betty on "Idol" at some point, then I sincerely hope Simon Cowell reconsiders his anti-Broadway bias and has her fill one of the new job vacancies on "The X Factor."