The ''Cats'' actress has continued on Broadway in ''Sunset Boulevard'' and ''Triumph of Love''

Of the 235 actors who have suited up in Cats kit, Betty Buckley was among the first — and the most famous, mostly for playing stepmom Abby on ABC’s Eight Is Enough (1977-1981). Still, Buckley got her Cats part by a whisker. ”The producers said I radiated health,” says Buckley, 50. ”But they were looking for death and dying.” Cats called back six months later, and Buckley landed the plum part of bedraggled Grizabella, the poignant showstopper ”Memory” — and the 1983 Tony for best actress in a musical. Since then, Buckley, who got her Broadway start in 1969’s 1776, has hewed to the stage, replacing Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard in 1995. The actress, who lives alone in New York City, is now preparing to open in the Broadway musical Triumph of Love on Oct. 23. She’s also toured, singing show tunes and standards; her sixth album, Much More, comes out this month. ”Some women collect jewels; I collect songs,” says Buckley. ”And ‘Memory’ is my most treasured gem.”