Producers confirmed this week that Glenn Close will return to the Broadway stage in her Tony-winning role as Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard.” The musical will play a limited 16-week engagement at Broadway’s Palace Theater starting this January. Of the past leading ladies to play Norma onstage — Close, Betty Buckley, Diahann Carroll, Petula Clark, Patti Lupone, Rita Moreno, Elaine Paige — who is your favorite? Vote in our poll below.
Close began her career on the Broadway stage and was seen there by director George Roy Hill in a production of the musical “Barnum.” Hill cast her in his film “The World According to Garp” for which she received the first of her six Oscar nominations. Close never was able to take home an Oscar for her film work but she did receive Emmy Awards for “Damages” and in the TV movie “Serving in Silence” as well as two additional Tony Awards for “The Real Thing” and “Death and the Maiden.”
The musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber was as famous in its day for its casting problems as it was for its music and story. The show opened in London with Broadway veteran LuPone in the lead. LuPone had risen to fame when she originated the title role in Webber’s “Evita” in New York. LuPone was slated to headline the original Broadway production but was replaced by Close after Close opened the Los Angeles production to what some thought as superior reviews and greater publicity. The firing resulted in a multi-million dollar lawsuit brought by LuPone which Webber chose to settle rather than take to court.
Oscar winner Faye Dunaway also went to battle in the courts over the show after she was hired to replace Close in the Los Angeles production. Webber decided to close the production prior to the start of her performances, citing her lack of singing ability and progress during rehearsals. Dunaway also was awarded a large settlement after she filed a lawsuit claiming the comments and termination of the production had harmed her reputation and broken a contract.
After this initial turmoil, the show settled down for multi-year runs in both New York and London. Close played the role for a year in New York and then was replaced by two former stars of Webber’s shows: Buckley who had won a Tony as Grizabella in the original cast of “Cats” in New York and British star Paige who had originated both the title role in “Evita” and Grizabella in “Cats” in London.
The London production of “Sunset Boulevard” was reworked after LuPone’s firing and incorporated the changes made for the New York production. Buckley initially headlined the new London cast followed by Paige, 60s pop star Clark and EGOT winner Moreno. The show was also staged in Toronto with Oscar nominee Carroll in the lead.
The casting and firing of so many talented divas always provokes discussion as to who musical theater fans found to be the best, so dare we ask, who’s YOUR favorite Norma Desmond onstage? Vote in our poll and let us know what you think in the comments section below.