Thursday, March 2, 2017

Sunset Boulevard

Every once in a while, a show lands a theatre that suits it perfectly. Wicked and Lion King can fill big barns like the Gershwin and Minskoff, Next to Normal was right at home in the intimate Booth, and then there is the revival of Sunset Boulevard, which I cannot imagine anywhere but the historic and grandiose Palace. The ghost of Judy Garland must be very much at home in this morose, reflective production.

As a Broadway fanatic, I am embarrassed to say I didn't have much knowledge of Sunset Boulevard other than the casting drama involving Patti LuPone. Glenn Close certainly has a commanding presence as the tragic Norma Desmond. Her voice is not first rate, though the vocal impurities add to the sadness of the aging diva who is cracking before our very eyes. That being said, I don't see anything singular about Glenn Close's permanence that wouldn't have been conveyed by any other film actress of a certain age. Jessica Lange comes to mind as another woman who could fill Demond's pumps. Lady Gaga is someone I could see playing the role in future revivals, but that is a conversation for another day.

Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's scores are known for recognizable numbers that become hits, such as Music of the Night, I Don't Know How to Love Him, Memory, and Don't Cry for Me Argentina. Sunset has two such numbers in with One Look and As If We Never Said Goodbye. Both are show stoppers, and though Close doesn't sing "Goodbye" like Patti did, she acts the heck out of it. Unfortunately the rest of the score is largely forgettable.

The full orchestra onstage is one of the highlights of this production as it harkens back to the old MGM films of the golden age. This production features a few interesting technical elements, such as the interesting construction of Norma's car using actors and lights, and extremely ornate costumes that queens will die for.

The Patti fan in me loves to hate Glenn Close's singing, but you cannot deny her extraordinary range as an actress. The finesse and nuance in the final scene is a thing of beauty. After Norma kills Joe in a jealous rage, we have every reason to loathe her, but we don't. We cry for her when she shouts her famous line "Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." This once powerful woman has been so undone by the pressures of Hollywood that she has tricked herself into believing that the present is not real. In the hands of a less capable actress, the scene would be pathetic, but the greats like Close (and LuPone) have you so cleverly nestled in the palm of their hand that you fall for their every move. 

No comments:

Post a Comment