The greatest star of all posed for her final close-up Sunday night at the Palace Theatre. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard closed on June 25. The revival was always intended as a limited engagement. However, the show was originally intended to close on May 28, but the run was extended an additional four weeks. I took advantage of the extension, got my tickets, and traveled to the boulevard!
I started listening to the cast album during the winter and I fell in love with it. (I never watched the film and still to this day haven't.) The combination of Glenn Close's voice, the erie, but hauntingly beautiful orchestra, and the suspenseful storyline all drew me in. I knew the basic premise of the show and that the ending does not go well for Joe Gillis (*spoiler alert*). However, I could not bring myself to listen to the final scene until months later.
I saw the show in June on a Saturday evening with my mom. My mom did not know anything about the storyline or songs. The only thing she knew was that she was going to see Glenn Close, so it was interesting to see her reaction to certain scenes compared to mine.
As soon as the curtain rises, you notice something very different about this production. Instead of a pit, the entire 40-piece orchestra is on the stage, by far the biggest on Broadway, and everything about it is such a treat. If you love a good overture like myself, let me just say this orchestra will not leave you disappointed. The woman at the center of all of this is Kristen Blodgette and she deserves multiple rounds of applause! Simply put, the orchestra is BIG and Norma Desmond is BIG.
Norma's back at last! Glenn Close captivates the audience and you cannot take your eyes off of her. The moment she walks on stage, she is the epitome of a star, and the audience lets her know that. The fact that she can come back to the role she originated more than two decades later is nothing short of amazing. I was born the year the original production started and I'm so grateful she reprised this role for my generation to witness her genius in playing Norma. The songs of course are splendid and her costumes bring out all of the glitz and glamour! I feel this role suits Close even better now than before. Norma is supposed to be 50, so Close was 47 during the original run. But now at age 70, the role seems even more appropriate.
The entire ensemble was wonderful, as well. And for those making their Broadway debuts, Britney Coleman, Katie Ladner, and Sean Thompson, bravo! "Let's Have Lunch" and "New Year's Eve" were some of my favorite numbers that were brilliantly choreographed and performed.
During many of Norma's numbers, a younger version of herself is dancing around in the background. You wouldn't know this without seeing the show, but Stephanie Martignetti gives a perfect portrayal of Norma in her glory days.
As for Mr. Gillis, Michael Xavier is a true class act. This was also his Broadway debut, along with Siobhan Dillon who plays Betty Schaefer, and they gave the performance of a lifetime. Xavier and Close have the perfect chemistry on stage. Also, the duets with Xavier and Siobhan are beautiful ballads. Xavier, who is a two-time Olivier Award nominee, is charming and brings the perfect sense of humor, romance, and tortured conscience to the stage. We are so lucky to have him here in the U.S.! His "Sunset Boulevard" number leaves the entire audience pleased.
Also, Fred Johanson, who plays Max and is also making his Broadway debut, gives a strong performance. His vocal range is so incredible, you have to hear it to believe it (and he was so nice at the stage door).
During the curtain call, you can feel the magic in the making and you know you just witnessed Broadway history. I'm sad to see this show close and to see Norma surrender, but I'm so happy to have experienced a trip to the boulevard. If you didn't get the chance to witness this beautiful production, go, go, go, at least listen to the 1994 cast recording. Unfortunately, they did not make a new recording for this run. If you were fortunate enough to see the show, I would love to hear your thoughts and reactions as well!