Glenn Close commands the stage as she reprises her Tony-winning turn in Sunset Boulevard, 23 years after the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical first came to Broadway. Her Norma Desmond is as ferocious and fragile as ever, and she’s the life force that propels this commendable production to ecstatic heights.
Adapted from Billy Wilder’s classic 1950 film about a faded silent-screen star and the young screenwriter, Joe Gillis, she coerces/seduces into helping her script what she hopes will be her comeback film, the musical is Hollywood melodrama played to the hilt, at least by its leading lady. Close fully inhabits Norma’s sad delusional psyche, getting to the core of a character haunted by lost youth and shattered dreams in emotion-packed numbers like “With One Look” and “New Ways to Dream.”
But it’s her second-act showstopper, “As if We Never Said Goodbye,” that demonstrates why Close has come to own the role. Norma shows up at Paramount, believing her former director Cecil B. DeMille (Paul Schoeffler) wants to make her film, and comes alive when an old stagehand shines a spotlight on her. That would be enough to make the moment unforgettable, but Close takes it a step further, letting Norma’s vulnerability bleed into the song, so at times she also looks like a deer caught in the headlights.
An import from London’s English National Opera, this version, directed by Lonny Price, places the 40-piece orchestra in the middle of the proceedings. Scenery is minimal, but James Noone’s design provides a pair of lofty staircases on either side of the stage for the characters to make grand entrances.
The main cast is small, and includes Michael Xavier as Joe, who’s a bit too clean-cut for someone with self-loathing that runs rampant as he lets himself become ensnared in Norma’s web; Siobhan Dillon as Joe’s writing partner/love interest, Betty Schaeffer; and Fred Johanson as Norma’s loyal butler.
Lloyd Webber’s score, which received a Tony Award in a season in which it was the only nominee, is filled with sweeping ballads and jazzy riffs that fit its setting, as do Don Black and Christopher Hampton’s book and lyrics.
But it’s Close who drives the show. Even after two and a half hours, you won’t want to say goodbye.
By Diane Snyder
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Glenn Close, Michael Xavier, Siobhan Dillon, Fred Johanson, Nancy Anderson, Mackenzie Bell, Barry Busby, Preston Truman Boyd, Britney Coleman, Julian Decker, Anissa Felix, Drew Foster, David Hess, Brittney Johnson, Katie Ladner, Stephanie Martignetti, Lauralyn McClelland, T. Oliver Reid, Lance Roberts, Stephanie Rothenberg, Graham Rowat, Paul Schoeffler, Andy Taylor, Sean Thompson, Matt Wall, Jim Walton
Preview Open/ Preview Close Dates
Preview Opening 2/2/2017
1564 Broadway (at 47th Street)
New York, NY 10036