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BWW Exclusive: Glenn Close is Just the Latest Star to Return to an Iconic Role

BWW Exclusive: Glenn Close is Just the Latest Star to Return to an Iconic Role
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

On Dec. 9, 1993, Glenn Close played her first performance in the Los Angeles premiere of SUNSET BOULEVARD. A year later, she reprised her role at Broadway's Minskoff Theatre and, six months after that, earned her third Tony Award for her portrayal of Norma Desmond.

Now, 22 years later, Broadway is again home to Norma Desmond, SUNSET BOULEVARD and Close herself, who revisits the iconic role she helped create decades ago.

In 2016, Close returned to the role in the English National Opera's concert-style revival, before transferring back to Broadway with the production.

Due to Tony Award Rule 2(j)ii, which says, "If an actor or actress is otherwise eligible but is repeating a role for which such actor or actress has won a Tony Award previously, such actor or actress shall not be eligible regardless of the category that role may have been placed in previously," Close is not eligible to win a second Tony for playing Norma Desmond.

However, returning to a role, especially one as enthralling as Norma, is a path taken by many performers. As Close captivates Broadway audiences in SUNSET BOULEVARD for the second time, here's a look at other performers who have taken on such a feat.


Carol Channing's final appearance in the title role of HELLO, DOLLY! was on Jan. 28, 1996. Her first, however, occurred over 30 years prior.

Channing originated the role of Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi in the musical version of Thornton Wilder's THE MATCHMAKER. The production, which opened at the St. James Theatre in 1964, earned her national acclaim, and secured her the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical. After starring in the production's second national tour shortly after, Channing took a short break from Dolly, appearing in the film THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE in 1968 and Broadway's LORELEI in 1974.

In 1978, however, Channing returned to HELLO, DOLLY!, bringing her dazzling performance to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre before its West End transfer, which led to her first Olivier Award nomination.

Seventeen years later, and 31 years after the original production, Channing took her final turn as Dolly in the 1995 revival, directed by Lee Roy Reams, who played Cornelius Hackl in the 1978 revival and is one of the only men to have been given permission to play the role of Dolly. This same year, she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award, commemorating her work in HELLO, DOLLY! and beyond.

Coincidently, Channing's run in LORELEI was a return as well. The musical was a revised version of the 1949 musical GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, in which the actress also played Lorelei Lee.

Channing performs "Before the Parade Passes By:"


Just recently, Alan Cumming revisited his commendable performance in CABARET, returning to the Kit Kat Club for the first time in nearly two decades.

In 1993, Alan Cumming appeared in the Donmar Warehouse's revival of the Kander and Ebb musical, marking his first turn as the Master of Ceremonies. The original Broadway production appeared at Henry Miller Theatre (and eventually Studio 54) five years later, and Cumming, reprising the role in his Broadway debut, earned Tony, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Theatre World Awards for his performance.

Cumming remained on stage for the next 15 years, appearing in the 2001 production of DESIGN FOR LIVING, the West End revival of BENT and his one-man adaptation of MACBETH.

His return to CABARET came in 2014 in the Roundabout Theater Company's revival, again directed by Sam Mendes. Cumming returned to the role of the Emcee, and again performed at Studio 54, the same theatre that housed the 1998 revival.

During his first run in CABARET, Cumming performs at the 1998 Tony Awards:


Ted Neeley, known by many for his performance in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, has dedicated much of his acting career to the role of Jesus.

Neeley's first encounter with the character came in 1971, when he understudied the role at the Mark Hellinger Theatre during the show's initial Broadway run. Two years later, he took on the role in the film version, earning Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor and Most Promising Newcomer the following year.

After two decades, Neeley returned to the role in the touring company of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR; Carl Anderson, who starred alongside Neeley in the film, also reprised his role. Just between 1992 and 1997, Neeley performed as Jesus 1,700 times.

By 2007, Neeley was again touring as Jesus, bringing his performance to audiences around the country, over 30 years after the film's release.

More recently, he embarked on an international tour of the show, and can be seen in Italy and The Netherlands in the coming weeks.

Neeley performs in the 1973 film adaptation of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR:

Throughout his career, Zero Mostel revisited a number of his acclaimed roles, including Pseudolus in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM and Tevye in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.

After winning his second Tony Award for A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM in 1963, Mostel quickly began crafting the character of Tevye, the protagonist of the new musical FIDDLER ON THE ROOF; this portrayal would score Mostel another Tony just two years later.

But shortly after, Mostel revisited his star-turning performance in FORUM, leading the 1966 film adaptation alongside Jack Gilford and Phil Silvers.

Mostel delved into plenty of new work following the film, including his Golden-Globe nominated performance in THE PRODUCERS, an acclaimed performance in ULYSSES IN NIGHTTOWN, and a starring role in RHINOCEROS, the film adaptation of the play that earned him his first Tony Award.

Mostel, however, was not finished with his work in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. In 1976, the actor reprised the role of Tevye at the Winter Garden Theatre, bringing his stunning portrayal to the Broadway stage once again. The production, directed again by Jerome Robbins, ran for 167 performances.



During her remarkable career that included performances in ANYTHING GOES, HELLO, DOLLY! and GYPSY, Ethel Merman brought one of her iconic roles, Annie Oakley, to Broadway twice.

On May 16, 1946, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN opened at the Imperial Theatre, with Merman as its star. Merman remained with the show for its entire three-year run, performing as Annie Oakley for over 1,100 performances.

This, however, was not the end of her journey with the role. Merman continued to shine on Broadway for the next 20 years, appearing in CALL ME MADAM and HAPPY HUNTING, and originating and touring as the iconic Madame Rose in GYPSY.

Then, in September 1966, two decades after ANNIE GET YOUR GUN's opening, the Broadway Theatre housed the first revival of the musical, with Merman again in the leading role. The production ran for just over two months, giving Merman another chance to dazzle as Annie Oakley.

Merman performs in the 1966 revival of ANNIE GET YOUR GUN:

Throughout the years, there have been many other stars who have returned to beloved roles; including Yul Brynner, John Cameron Mitchell, and the cast of RENT. What has been your favorite star-return?

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