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1996 interview - Betty Buckley talks how she got 'Sunset Boulevard'

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I found this interview fro July, 1996 when Betty Buckley guested on 'The Rosie O'Donnell Show'. She performs 'With One Look' and then tells the story of how she got the role of 'Norma Desmond' in SUNSET BOULEVARD (she approached ALW in it's earliest stages). I wish the interview was longer, and I wish Rosie would have kept quiet and let her talk more...

 

https://youtu.be/MdjHCQEGDmg

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Based on her work in London, Garth Drabinsky wanted her for his production in Toronto. RUG caught wind of this and almost immediately offered Broadway when Close left the show in July. No brainer for Buckley given that she hadn’t been on Broadway I believe since Carrie and had been doing mostly recording work on the since defunct Sterling label and touring in concert.

Drabinsky went outside of the box and hired Carrol, who it’s worth noting got exceptionally good reviews.

Updated On: 4/20/20 at 11:16 PM
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I know in her memoir from about 10 years ago, Carroll had said she auditioned for Closes replacement in LA, but then was offered Toronto instead. She didn’t want to relocate, and had rather stay in LA, but took Toronto because she needed the work. It worked out well for all- except Faye Dunaway.
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castlestreet said: "Based on her work in London, Garth Drabinsky wanted her for his production in Toronto. RUG caught wind of this and almost immediately offered Broadway when Close left the show in July. No brainer for Buckley given that she hadn’t been on Broadway I believe since Carrie and had been doing mostly recording work on the since defunct Sterling label and touring in concert.

Drabinsky went outside of the box and hired Carrol, who it’s worth noting got exceptionally good reviews.
"

I am from upstate ny and Sunset was my first “broadway” show. There was a deal to see sunset and phantom while my mom was Christmas shopping at the mall. I can confirm Carrol was electric. Loved reading about her experience in her book.

 

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Unlike Glenn Close; Betty Buckley could sing the role.

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The EP with her tracks are INCREDIBLE. In my opinion the best record of the show by far.
"Rose in Gypsy was like going through therapy for me. Playing Rose helped me put a lot of emotions to bed. There was so much lacking in Rose and that's why she had to prove herself through her children. [interviewer]In ways that reminded you of your mom?[/interviewer]. Let's just say the role was very interesting for me. That one was the most interesting [I've ever played]" - Bernadette Peters (2018)
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qolbinau said: "The EP with her tracks are INCREDIBLE. In my opinion the best record of the show by far."

I always wanted a copy of that. I saw her in the show right after she started, but I can't remember if the EP was available yet, or just didn't think to pick one up, I was a broke college kid on summer break.



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castlestreet said: "Drabinsky went outside of the box and hired Carrol, who it’s worth noting got exceptionally good reviews."

You only have to look at the bootleg of the final scene online to see that - she breaks down literally on the last note and releases an ear-piercing shriek. Its amazing.

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Her Norma has a very regal feel to her - right down to the way she walked. Makes her more believable given that so many of those early stars of silent movies were literally treated like royalty.

And yes - because she seemed so much more put together on the outside, when she does truly fall apart at the end it’s so believable and bone chilling.
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everythingtaboo said: "qolbinau said: "The EP with her tracks are INCREDIBLE. In my opinion the best record of the show by far."

I always wanted a copy of that. I saw her in the show right after she started, but I can't remember if the EP was available yet, or just didn't think to pick one up, I was a broke college kid on summer break.
"

It was one of those ‘rare’ recordings but it’s just on Apple Music now for everyone hehe. 

"Rose in Gypsy was like going through therapy for me. Playing Rose helped me put a lot of emotions to bed. There was so much lacking in Rose and that's why she had to prove herself through her children. [interviewer]In ways that reminded you of your mom?[/interviewer]. Let's just say the role was very interesting for me. That one was the most interesting [I've ever played]" - Bernadette Peters (2018)
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So according to Buckley's interview, her brother is the one who really pushed her for the role from the beginning stages (1991-92). At the party for the 10 year Anniversary of 'CATS' (1992) Buckley finally got up the nerve to approach ALW and let him know she was interested in the role of 'Norma Desmond' for his upcoming production of SB. ALW reminds her that he already has her in mind. 

So why wasn't she part of Syndmonton ? Why didn't he cast her for LA ? Why did she have to wait for Lupone's departure in London ?  It's interesting how it all transpired. 

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David10086 said: "So why wasn't she part of Syndmonton ? Why didn't he cast her for LA ? Why did she have to wait for Lupone's departure in London ? It's interesting how it all transpired."

Well, Buckley says ALW basically replied "we're keeping you in mind." I'm sure leading up to Syndmonton her name was in discussions among the creatives and producers along with probably a dozen broadway/west end divas (Patti, Bernadette, Buckley, Paige, etc etc) and dream movie or pop stars (Streep, Close, Cher, McClaine, whoever). In my experience they usually end up ranking lists like this and I'm sure Buckley was somewhere in the middle and on a "great replacement and/or opening a different city" list. ALW would have fired anyone if a bigger name said yes. He'd have dumped Glenn for Streep or Cher in a heartbeat too, no doubt.

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Glenn Close was a huge movie star in 1993. Huge. I'd argue at the same platform of prestige and fame as Meryl Streep at that time, so it is highly unlikely ALW would have dumped Close for Streep, had Streep shown interest. The tabloids at the time (particularly in the UK) had a field day with stories about Streep being desperate to play the role, especially after her appearance in the audience at Sydmonton. But I wager those stories were largely untrue. Streep was raising a family at that time and I suspect the truth is that she herself opted out of further consideration when the first production was being mounted.

But, again, it's worth reminding that in the early-mid 1990s, having Glenn Close interested in playing this part was a huge behmoth -- imagine today a show being developed and opening with Donna Murphy in the lead and having Donna Murphy dropped in favor of - say Cate Blanchett or Nicole Kidman and you have some idea of why, for the producers, bumping LuPone was a no-brainer for Broadway.

Betty Buckley has always had a reputation for being somewhat difficult and her latest appearance before Sunset Boulevard was CARRIE.  LuPone at the time was on a fairly popular television series - if we are going based on which of them was more 'viable' in 1993, it would have been LuPone for sure.

 

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Buckley certainly has a reputation, which is a shame. When you stop to think she hasn’t been on Broadway since Triumph of Love it really gets you to thinking. Aside from those who loved Eight Is Enough and vaguely remember her from Carrie, she isn’t very well known outside of the theater world. My non-theater family and friends know who Patti or Bernadette are, but when I would be getting ready to go see Buckley in concert I’d get a lot of “who is she?” from people when I was telling them about an upcoming trip.

Her talent is immense and I’ve met her several times and have always found her to be extremely gracious to her fans, but her reputation is out there and many directors and producers don’t want to deal with the headache that reportedly comes with her. Again - a real shame.
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In terms of Buckley / ALW, I was always curious if she was considered for the original production of EVITA. She was the right age, had already worked in London, and was one of (I would think) the few actresses at the time whose unique vocal talents would have been obviously right for the material.  Maybe her 'Eight is Enough" schedule wouldn't have allowed it but she was always the 'Evita that could have been' in my mind.

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Hearing the first two songs on Barbra Streisand's "Back to Broadway" CD, I felt that the lyrics perfectly described the "delusion" of the Norma Desmond character.  I bought tickets to a performance shortly after the show opened and felt somewhat underwhelmed.  The show seemed to be a live commercial for walking up and down the stairs and how often you can change your clothing and slowly go insane.  I enjoyed most of the staging, but in the end, the show only made me wanna watch the movie again  I would have loved to have seen Diahann Carroll tour in this show!

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ChgoTheatreGuy said: "Hearing the first two songs on Barbra Streisand's "Back to Broadway" CD, I felt that the lyrics perfectly described the "delusion" of the Norma Desmond character. I bought tickets to a performance shortly after the show opened and felt somewhat underwhelmed. The show seemed to be a live commercial for walking up and down the stairs and how often you can change your clothing and slowly go insane. I enjoyed most of the staging, but in the end, the show only made me wanna watch the movie again I would have loved to have seen Diahann Carroll tour in this show!"

i

I’ m curious - which production did you see, and with which actress ? I finally saw Buckley in 1996 and loved it  

 

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QueenAlice said: "In terms of Buckley / ALW, I was always curious if she was considered for the original production of EVITA. She was the right age, had already worked in London, and was one of (I would think) the few actresses at the time whose unique vocal talents would have been obviously right for the material. Maybe her 'Eight is Enough" schedule wouldn't have allowed it but she was always the 'Evita that could have been' in my mind."

Hmmm Buckley singing anything from Evita is interesting.. does anyone know if she has? I've seen in her concert twice and she didn't in those

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Here she's singing Don't Cry for Me Argentina, and I once heard her sing Buenos Aires as well but can't find the clip

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In concert at the NJPAC about four years ago, she sang Another Suitcase in Another Hall.  It was beautiful.

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Well, gang, all I know is Betty is THE best Norma. I saw BB 4 times and she is always, "Norma"... I saw Close the 1st and 2nd times and while she is characteristically fun she's different; BB is definitely the truly best singer. Even in Hello Dolly, Buckley becomes "Dolly" in her own stunning ways. I really wish they had recorded the entire show and not just the EP with Betty too....There is a better than average b/l on youTube of both acts and I watch that over and over...

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imeldasturn said: "Here she's singing Don't Cry for Me Argentina, and I once heard her sing Buenos Aires as well but can't find the clip"

thanks!