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Sunset Boulevard starring Glenn Close – review at Palace Theatre, New York

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.

Despite the scenery chewing (which may likely be the draw), the production lacks an acerbic bite. It plays the would-be tragedy as bright and sunny. This is a musical that is after all narrated by a corpse (whose early exit and later return from the rafters creates one of several awkward staging moments).

Michael Xavier – making his Broadway debut after starring in the English National Opera production in London – is an affable Joe Gillis, the cynical screenwriter at the end of his Hollywood rope who lets Desmond ensnare him. He beams during his romantic parrying with Siobhan Dillon’s unguarded Betty, the idealist, aspiring screenwriter who reminds Joe why he first came to this crazy town.  But Xavier’s natural effulgence (surely a boon in other roles) can sometimes work against this beleaguered character’s inner darkness. Joe’s moral conundrum gets muddled.

With the orchestra taking up prime real estate on stage, the production’s design is scaled down from its original Broadway run. Yet, the elaborate scaffolding with decorative touches effectively serves as a skeleton of the Paramount backlot, movie sets, and the desolate Desmond mansion.


Glenn Close’s gleefully over-the-top performance dominates a production that lacks edge

Production Information

Sunset Boulevard
Palace Theatre
New York
February 2, 2017
May 28, 2017
Press night
February 9, 2017
Don Black, Christopher Hampton
Andrew Lloyd Webber
Don Black, Christopher Hampton
Lonny Price
James Noone
Mark Henderson
Mick Potter
Rick Sordelet, Christian Kelly-Sordelet (fight direction)
Stage manager
Timothy R Semon (production stage manager)
Cast includes
Glenn Close, Michael Xavier, Siobhan Dillon, Fred Johanson, Nancy Anderson, Mackenzie Bell, Preston Truman Boyd, Barry Busby, Britney Coleman, Julian R Decker, Anissa Felix, Drew Foster, David Hess, Brittney Johnson, Katie Ladner, Stephanie Martignetti, Lauralyn McClelland, T. Oliver Reid, Lance Roberts, Stephanie Rothenberg, Graham Rowat, Paul Schoeffler, Andy Taylor, Sean Thompson, Matt Wall, and Jim Walton
English National Opera
Running time
2hrs 40mins