More than 20 years after confirming her status as a Broadway diva equal to the fictional star she was playing, Glenn Close will play Norma Desmond in a short-run revival of Sunset Boulevard at the English National Opera. It will be her London debut in the role that won her a Tony Award in the 1994 Broadway production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Don Black/Christopher Hampton musical based on Billy Wilder’s 1950 comedy noir.
The semi-staged production will be presented at the ENO’s home base, the Coliseum, marking its second tandem show with the GradeLinnit Company. U.S. director Lonny Price will stage the 43-performance run, set to begin on April 1, 2016, with official opening on April 4. As Joe Gillis, Close’s American co-star Alan Campbell (William Holden to her Gloria Swanson from the movie) will also reprise. Further casting will be announced shortly.
Close recently signed on to co-star with J.K. Simmons, Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Terry Bradshaw and Ving Rhames in the comedy Bastards, the directing debut of cinematographer Lawrence Sher. She returned to Broadway last season after a long absence, in a revival of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance.
Close’s relationship with Sunset Boulevard is the stuff of Broadway legend. The show opened in London in 1993 with Lloyd Webber favorite Patti LuPone playing Norma Desmond, the delusional forgotten silent-screen star who lures a willing young writer to become her lover and the architect of her comeback. Although LuPone had been promised the role on Broadway as well, Close opened in the show’s U.S. debut in Los Angeles, to great acclaim. Lloyd Webber and his Really Useful Company paid off LuPone’s contract and set Close to open the Broadway run, where the Trevor Nunn production won seven Tony Awards in a largely uncontested field. (In her cabaret act, LuPone often refers to her Connecticut piscine as “the Andrew Lloyd Webber Memorial Swimming Pool.)
Close herself took on Lloyd Webber when the Broadway company reported to Variety that the show’s grosses had remained steady during her two-week vacation. Under the headline “Sunset Bull-evard” the paper reported — much to the delight of newspapers in New York and London — that in fact sales had tumbled more than 30 percent. When Variety then quoted Close’s scorching missive to Lloyd Webber denouncing him for suggesting that she was not responsible for the show’s success, the episode became one for the books. All, apparently, has been forgiven, and now Close will have the chance to sing “As If We Never Said Goodbye” and to utter the immortal line, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up,” to her London fans.
The show follows the acclaimed March 2015 ENO and GradeLinnit Company presentation of Sweeney Todd with Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel.