Monday, November 14, 2016

'Sunset Boulevard' Returns to Broadway Starring Glenn Close

(image credit:
With the Broadway revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Sunset Boulevard' starring Glenn Close that is scheduled to play a limited 16-week engagement at the Palace Theatre opening in three months, the publicity machine advertising the show is starting to get into full swing. It will run from February to May 2017 when I normally do not visit New York so it appears I'm likely to try to schedule an early Spring visit to catch the production.

Back in the fall of 1994 I recall that before the internet, audiences had to call Ticketmaster for tickets. I purchased two tickets then to the original Broadway production which played the Minskoff Theatre: One towards the end of June 1995 and a second for the first week of July 1995. Seeing those two performances would be during my first ever visit to the Big Apple. The show had an advance ticket sale of $37.5 million, the largest at the time, and I was not going to be left out. It was also at the time the second most expensive ticket on Broadway at $70 (the 1994 revival of 'Show Boat' was scaled at a top $75). These two tickets allowed me to see the musical with Glenn Close one final time towards the end of her run and a performance during the start of Betty Buckley's turn as the next Norma Desmond.

 Glenn Close & Michael Xavier in the London Coliseum 
production of 'Sunset Boulevard' 
(photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith/Daily Mail)
Tickets for the Broadway revival have been on sale for a couple of weeks and there are still a healthy amount of great seats available with tickets currently topping out at $299 for prime orchestra seats, something unheard of back in 1994. The revival originated at London's Coliseum Theatre where it played a five-week engagement earlier this year.

I was a 'Sunset Boulevard' chaser for a while. After catching the London production (1993, Patti Lupone, Adelphi Theatre), I ended up seeing these productions of the musical in the following years: Los Angeles (1994, Glenn Close, Shubert Theatre); New York (1995, Glenn Close & Betty Buckley, Minskoff Theatre); Toronto (1996, Diahann Carroll, North York Performing Arts Centre); US National Tour (1997, Linda Balgord, Civic Opera House - Chicago) and revamped US Tour (1999, Petula Clark, Curran Theatre - San Francisco). Of course the show now has made the rounds of resident theatre companies around the country which lead me to see a production at Signature Theatre in DC (2010, Florence Lacey) as well as a Hawaii community theater production at Diamond Head Theatre in Honolulu (2011, Mary Gutzi). I did return to see the Broadway production an additional two times: a second performance with Betty Buckley in the summer of July 1996 and in November 1996 when I had intended to see Elaine Paige in her Broadway debut. However Paige's understudy, Susan Dawn Carson, played that November evening. Paige was the last Norma Desmond on Broadway playing the role until closing night in March 1997.

Unfortunately the London, Los Angeles, Broadway, Toronto and Touring productions were ultimately failures and the shows did not recoup their initial investments. The Broadway version ran for 977 performances but due to high production costs and waning ticket sales after Close's exit, the show could not sustain a longer run.

I understand the revival is semi-staged (limited sets) with a 40-piece orchestra on stage, the largest ever on Broadway. It will be interesting how Close sings and performs in the role considering it's been 23 years since she opened the Los Angeles production in 1993. One of the biggest differences is Norma's enormous mansion which wowed audiences in the London, LA, Broadway, Toronto and the initial US National Tour, will be no more. The set was magnificent and you heard the "wows" in the audience when this massive gilded set with grand staircase effortlessly arrived on stage.

Visit for more information and tickets.

By the way to see the Norma Desmond mansion set in motion, watch the video below at 4:30. It's the 1995 Tony Awards which was presented on the Sunset Boulevard set at the Minskoff Theatre. At 1:26:50, hear Carol Burnett say "I would have given my eye teeth if the producers would have allowed me to come down those stairs."

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