Entertainment & Arts

Sunset Boulevard: Critics praise new Glenn Close production

Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard Image copyright Richard Hubert Smith
Image caption Glenn Close first played Norma Desmond on Broadway in 1994

A new production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Sunset Boulevard has received a positive response from critics.

Hollywood actress Glenn Close stars in the musical, which opened on Monday evening at London's Coliseum theatre.

Writing in The Guardian, Michael Billington said the new production had given the show "a new lease of life".

"Close delivers the big lines not with a camp flourish but as if they were sincerely felt," he said.

Billington noted that the show had "none of the epic scale of the original London production" but added this was to the producers' credit: "Sometimes semi-staged is better than the luxurious grandeur of an elephantine West End musical."

Glenn Close is reprising the role of Norma Desmond, a character she first played in Los Angeles in 1993. She won a Tony award for her Broadway performance in 1995.

Holly Williams from theatre website WhatsOnStage said: "It might be 20 years since she bagged a Tony in this part, but I wouldn't bet against her scooping a few shiny new gongs this time round."

Image copyright Richard Hubert Smith
Image caption Glenn Close stars alongside Michael Xavier, who plays Joe

However, some critics did note that Close's voice occasionally struggled with the higher notes.

"[Close's] vocal instrument may not be as sharp as it once was, but she brings an utterly ferocious intensity to the part and the songs," Mark Shenton wrote in his review for The Stage.

Time Out also had some criticisms of the production: "Like many later Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, Sunset Boulevard is not brilliant."

Andrzej Lukowski added that "69-year-old Close is definitely a bit old to play 50-year-old silent movie star Norma Desmond".

Rod McPhee, writing in The Daily Mirror, said Close "masterfully belts out the show's biggest numbers, and earned rapturous applause as a result. Her first musical in London's West End proves that she's far from a fading star."

Image copyright Richard Hubert Smith
Image caption The show is running for five weeks at the London Coliseum, filling a gap in the English National Opera season

Sunset Boulevard tells the story of a Hollywood writer named Joe (played in the new production by Michael Xavier), who is being chased by mob creditors.

Joe seeks refuge in a Los Angeles mansion, only to discover it is already being inhabited by Norma Desmond, a wealthy but forgotten silent movie star.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey attended Monday evening's performance, tweeting: "Absolutely wonderful. Glenn Close gives the performance of a lifetime. One of the best things I have seen."

Speaking to the BBC after she came off stage on Monday evening, Close said: "Norma Desmond is one of the best parts ever written for a woman."

"It's a phenomenal show, it's such an exciting journey and it has been the best adventure. I feel so lucky. I am on such an emotional high, I've never had this kind of response."

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