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Review Roundup: Glenn Close Returns to SUNSET BOULEVARD- All the Reviews!


Acclaimed actress Glenn Close has headed back to Broadway to play the iconic role of faded Hollywood star Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Sunset Boulevard, which won her a Tony in 1995.

Close made her West End debut in a bravura sold-out limited engagement at the English National Opera (ENO) in April 2016, winning an Evening Standard Award for her iconic portrayal of Norma Desmond. Based on Billy Wilder's classic Academy Award-winning film, Sunset Boulevard features a celebrated book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton.) Directed by Lonny Price, this production of Sunset Boulevard will feature a 40-piece orchestra on the stage of The Palace Theatre (1564 7th Avenue), the biggest on Broadway in more than 80 years.

In her mansion on Sunset Boulevard, faded, silent-screen goddess, Norma Desmond, lives in a fantasy world. Impoverished screen writer, Joe Gillis, on the run from debt collectors, stumbles into her reclusive world. Persuaded to work on Norma's 'masterpiece', a film script that she believes will put her back in front of the cameras, he is seduced by her and her luxurious life-style. Joe becomes entrapped in a claustrophobic world until his love for another woman leads him to try and break free with dramatic consequences.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: The scenery may have shrunk, but that face - oh, that face - looms larger than ever. So does the ego that animates it, both indomitable and irreparably broken. "With one look," indeed, to borrow a song lyric that describes such unsettling presence. That outrageous, over-the-top, desperate old lady shedding sanity on the stage of the Palace Theater still has the poetry in her gaze to break every heart.

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: Price's staging makes fun use of period film clips, but also includes some oddball moments like a dead body being lifted by wires into the air and a car chase being simulated by black-clad actors racing around in the dark with hand-held headlights. Nevertheless, Glenn Close is the reason to rush to the Palace these days. She may be playing a faded star, but her intelligent and skillful performance is luminous.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Glenn Close makes a triumphant return to the star role of Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Sunset Boulevard," a once-in-a-lifetime role that won her a Tony Award in 1995. Ever an elegant actress, she's positively regal in the English National Opera production which won her kudos on the West End last year and will play a limited 16-week run at the Palace Theater - a fitting setting for this star.

Robert Kahn, NBC New York: There aren't many circumstances in which I'd use the phrase "bare bones" to characterize a musical that boasts, among other big gestures, a 40-piece orchestra-incidentally, it's said to be the largest to play on Broadway in 80 years. Yet "stripped down" and "spare" are the words that come to mind when considering "Sunset Boulevard," the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that this month returns powerhouse star Glenn Close to Broadway as silent-screen recluse Norma Desmond, a role that earned her a Tony 22 years ago. This revival, directed by Lonny Price and now open at the Palace Theatre, was staged last year in London by the English National Opera. The entire West End cast has made the journey to New York, and be assured: aside from the enormous orchestra-and perhaps a bulbous chandelier that makes the one from "Phantom" seem like a toddler's night light-there's little here to distract from Close's mesmerizing Norma, or Lloyd Webber's pop friendly score.

Matt Windman, amNY: Two decades since its splashy Broadway premiere, the plot and the production history of "Sunset Boulevard," Andrew Lloyd Webber's sweeping 1990s musical treatment of Billy Wilder's 1950 film noir, have become one and the same. At the end of "Sunset Boulevard," Norma Desmond, the former silent screen star who has spent two decades in lonely obscurity, determinedly thrusts herself back into the spotlight, ready for either a close-up or the madhouse. In sync with Norma's intentions, the musical has returned to Broadway two decades later, bringing Glenn Close (who won a Tony as Norma in 1995) back to the stage and Lloyd Webber (who now has four musicals running simultaneously) back to his glory days.

Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: The song "As If We Never Said Goodbye" takes on touching new resonance in the Broadway revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1993 musical Sunset Boulevard, based on the classic Billy Wilder film. This version once again stars Glenn Close in the role that won her a Tony Award 22 years ago, and the veteran actress reprises it magnificently. Playing Norma Desmond, the aging former movie star obsessed with making a comeback, Close delivers a more subtle, nuanced performance well suited to a production dramatically scaled-down from the original.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: Well, Close and her huge 41-piece orchestra, stuffed where Napier's magnificent folly once sat and now placed in the service of rendering Lloyd Webber's most nostalgic, sentimental score with maximum symphonic, even operatic, fullness - for fun, profit and, surely, the composer's legacy. The director, Lonny Price, and the set designer, James Noone, have to work around all of that, as well as keep the Napier design out of your head, although they do come up with a series of simple but effective platforms that allow Close to appear in the rafters and then descend to her people, thus making two entrances for double applause.

Jeremy Gerard. Deadline: Glenn Close first played Norma Desmond in the U.S. debut of Sunset Boulevard when it opened in December 1993 at the Shubert Theatre in Century City before bringing the show to Broadway a year later. She's returned in a version that's both stripped down - the scenery is closer in style to an Encores! concert at City Center than John Napier's over-the-top sets back then - and beefed-up, with a 40-piece onstage orchestra at the Palace Theatre that allows Andrew Lloyd Webber's music to take its place as Close's true co-star.

Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal: Not so Ms. Close. To be sure, she is 69, much older than the 50-year-old character whom she plays, but that doesn't matter in the least. If anything, her greater age makes Norma's plight all the more pitiable, and Ms. Close's performance, by turns adamantine and childishly needy, is as memorable in its own way as was that of Gloria Swanson in the movie. No, the fundamental problem with turning "Sunset Boulevard" into a musical is that it is perfect, a fact that is well understood by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, whose book is largely faithful to the Wilder-Charles Brackett script, give or take a sprinkling of superfluous four-letter words (though their lyrics are sing-songy and ill-crafted). The truth is that "Sunset Boulevard" doesn't need songs, or anything else that it doesn't already have in abundance. Saving Ms. Close's presence, to change anything at all is necessarily to diminish the film's overwhelming effect.

Robert Hofler, TheWrap: Lucy as Norma Desmond? Actually, Close isn't that subtle. Her Norma Desmond often resembles Carol Burnett's TV parody of an aging silent film star though the latter had far more resemblance to a human being. Like Burnett, Close gives a bravura performance: funny, over-the-top, ridiculous. The only vulnerability Close brings to the role, however, is her singing voice. The actress was never a great singer, but managed to be adequate by Broadway standards. Here, her vocal production changes with nearly every other note, and the resulting tone and pitch is just as variable.

Linda Winer, Newsday: In fact, there is something fitting, even satisfying about this less elaborate, modest incarnation - if modest is not too foolish a word for an economical event that still begins with a drowned corpse in the air, dresses Close in outrageous gold splendor by the original costume designer, Anthony Powell, and has a 40-piece orchestra onstage. The musical is presented here in the familiar Encores! style of semi-staged revivals by the English National Opera, directed by Lonny Price, and, surprisingly, feels less like a hokey entertainment straining for artistic importance than did the original.

Joe Dziemianowicz, The New York Daily News: It's been 23 years since she originated the role of Hollywood has-been Norma Desmond on Broadway in Andrew Lloyd Webber's sumptuous, if uneven, musical version of Billy Wilder's classic film. Norma's got the same turban, same neuroses and the same pipe dreams only La La Land can inspire. Close, meanwhile, goes heavy on the fragility, vulnerability and dark humor for the part played on film by Gloria Swanson. If a few vocals are strained, Close commands the stage in this concert production from the English National Opera.

Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly: Great divas never die; they just wait for the next Broadway revival. Nearly 70 years after faded star Norma Desmond swanned into pop-culture legend in Billy Wilder's classic 1950 film noir, she's still a spangled, endlessly quotable icon of Hollywood madness - and a delicious opportunity for any actress over 40 who knows her way around a big gesture and a bejeweled turban.

Adam Feldman, Time Out NY: So it is with Sunset Boulevard. Those who go to see Close reprise her celebrated turn in the musical's 1994 Broadway production will not be disappointed. There was a risk of Norma-like pathos in the prospect of the actress, now nearly 70, returning to a role she played more than 20 years ago-draped, no less, in her original Anthony Powell costumes, a fantastical array of capes and turbans and fur cuffs and animal prints. But Close holds the stage with a feverish intensity that transcends camp. Her Norma may live in a fantasy world, but in a town of phonies, she inhabits her grand delusions with total authenticity.

Jesse Green, Vulture: But Sunset Boulevard, which opened tonight in a train wreck of a revival starring a woeful Glenn Close, also comes with a poison pill for would-be adapters. Its daring mix of film noir and Hollywood satire requires the utmost finesse to carry off, lest it turn into camp, a mere coffin of curiosities. (We are in fact introduced to Norma as she kisses the corpse of her pet chimp.) That it doesn't go rancid - that the film remains beautiful despite its overbite - is attributable to Wilder's worldliness: No extreme of human behavior surprises or discomfits him. It may be impossible to achieve that kind of detachment in theatrical song, which pretty much defies a neutral point of view. Perhaps that's why Kander and Ebb gave up. As for Sondheim, who was writing with Jeanette MacDonald in mind for the lead, he dropped the project after Wilder told him at a cocktail party that the material could only work as an opera.

Nicole Serratore, The Stage: Those clamouring for Glenn Close's musical return to Broadway won't be disappointed. She gives a suitably grandiose performance as the reclusive screen legend Norma Desmond in Lonny Price's production of Sunset Boulevard. Close more than matches the fiery energy of the 40-piece orchestra. With extravagant gestures, sensationalised poses, and enough shiny, lavish leisure wear to bedazzle Liberace, she makes certain Desmond will forever loom large, even if the pictures around her got small.

Christopher Kelly, The applause starts when the curtain rises, to reveal a forty-person orchestra onstage -- according to the producers, one of the largest in Broadway history. The mad clapping starts up again a few minutes later, when Glenn Close enters the proceedings, revisiting a role that twenty-two years ago won her the Tony. On the night I saw the show, even a single line of Close's dialogue -- the famous, "I am big, it's the pictures that got small" zinger -- generated a new round of cheers. This isn't merely the fault of an overeager audience, though. Director Lonny Price and his lead actress seem determined to force you out of the moment, overloading the production with so many "Major Theatrical Event" moments and signposts that it all starts to sag beneath the weight of its own self-importance.

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