"Sunset Boulevard" opened Thursday at the Palace Theatre. Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber now has four musicals on Broadway at the same time, making him the only composer to achieve that feat since Rodgers and Hammerstein did the same in 1953. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
It’s been a while since Broadway has had a bonafide, pull-out-the-stops star performance, but Glenn Close’s return as silent movie queen Norma Desmond is all that and more. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s adaptation of the 1950 film classic "Sunset Boulevard" is back after more than 20 years, and, befitting the times, it’s a leaner production, musically enhanced and guaranteed to make you surrender!
The voice is huskier now, but every bit as powerful as the first time she sang those glorious notes. Director Lonny Price dispensed with the lavish scenery from the first go-round and replaced it with a full 40-piece on-stage orchestra producing sounds so gorgeously lush, your ears will bow down in gratitude.
The book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, telling the tragic story of a faded movie star who can’t give up the spotlight, is more engrossing now. The minimalist staging allows for a sharper focus. And what always struck me as a grotesque characterization of a woman on the verge of madness is now more nuanced and emotionally engaging. She’s not so much delusional as she is pathetic. And that allows for greater empathy.
Of course, so much of the show's success is owed to Close's performance, which has truly deepened since her first outing. It's a chilling catharsis watching her unravel at the end.
Her co-stars, all imported from the West End production last year, are equally winning. Michael Xavier as the hungry writer seduced by Norma’s opulent trappings, wrenches every ounce of pathos from the star-crossed Joe Gillis. He’s matched by Siobhan Dillon’s Betty Schaeffer, putting a distinctive stamp on a stock role. And Fred Johanson employs a gorgeous baritone to Norma’s creepy man-servant Max. His devotion is a poignant grace note to a life warped by the immortal promise of fame.
Glenn Close is delivering one of those "must see" performances that come around every decade or so. She is Norma Desmond on that stage, but for one key exception: At age 69, far from fading from the spotlight, this celebrated veteran remains a star and now, at the top of her game.