Glenn has another close-up with Norma Desmond
Glenn Close was ready for another close-up this week in London. Twenty-two years after winning the Tony award for originating the role of Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway transfer of his 1993 West End show Sunset Boulevard, she returned to play the delusional one-time movie star, Norma Desmond, clinging onto hopes of a screen return (not, she insists, a comeback).
Close’s own return to the role has been greeted with critical hosannas. As I wrote in my own review for londontheatre.co.uk, “Close may be perpetuating that delusion here—she turned 69 last month—but she brings the authentic whiff of real Hollywood glamour to a role that was originally created on the London stage by the Broadway diva Patti LuPone, and has since been played by other musical theatre veterans including Betty Buckley and Elaine Paige, as well as the movie and pop likes of Rita Moreno and Petula Clark. She’s the star attraction—you might say Fatal Attraction, given what’s going to happen to poor Joe Gillis, the impoverished screenwriter who stumbles into her path when he hides his car in the garage of her Hollywood mansion from debt collectors who are chasing him.”
In a five-star notice for the London Times, Ann Treneman admitted that she came to the theatre “as a sceptic.” “She is now 69. Could she still do it? Could she hit the notes? Wasn’t she an aging movie star playing, er, an aging movie star? The answer came before she even opened her mouth.”
In The Guardian, Michael Billington concurred, “Her big achievement is to treat the character not as a grotesque harpy but as a real woman who lives in a remembered past. You believe her when, in one of Lloyd Webber’s best numbers, she hymns the days of the silent movies and sings: ‘When I look your way / You’ll hear what I say.’”
Playing opposite Close as Joe Gillis is West End regular Michael Xavier, who has graduated from once being a Sky in Mamma Mia! to principal man, and is acclaimed by the Daily Mail’s Quentin Letts for his “fine teeth, buff body and gleaming vocals.”
Timothy Spall also returns to the London stage
Also returning to the theatrical stage is Timothy Spal in a play for the first time in 19 years. He appears in a new production of Pinter’s The Caretaker at the Old Vic, directed by artistic director Matthew Warchus. Spall has been spending a productive time in films like the Harry Potter series and playing the title role of JMW Turner in Mike Leigh’s biopic of the painter. As Michael Billington noted in a four-star review for The Guardian, he’s an actor who “specialises in characters outside the social norms.”
In a four-star notice for the Evening Standard, Henry Hitchings notes, “The play was Pinter’s first commercial success when it premiered in 1960, establishing his particular brand of sinister enigma. ... Spall’s performance contains finicky bits of business that Pinter never intended, and it doesn’t eclipse memories of Michael Gambon and Jonathan Pryce in the role. But it’s a fine account of the character’s shifting moods.”
Olivier Awards broadcast ignites controversy but gives Cyndi Lauper prominence
The good news is that the Olivier Awards are now back on British television (for a number of years they were not broadcast at all). But unlike the Tony’s, they’re not broadcast live on the night, only in a highlights package that night on the national commercial terrestrial channel ITV1, and then in full the following evening on digital channel ITV3. It is also available to watch globally on the Olivier Awards’ new YouTube channel.
But though the live show in the Royal Opera House on April 3 featured numbers from all the shows nominated for Best Musical and Best Musical Revival, the highlights package omitted both Bend it Like Beckham (a Best Musical nominee) and 7 Brides for 7 Brothers (Musical Revival nominee). Both shows have closed, so were cut; but Cyndi Lauper was represented by the extract from Kinky Boots (which took the Olivier for Best Musical) and had an extra bite of the television cherry when she performed a solo number, as well as a rendition of her 1986 hit “True Colors,” dueting with Michael Ball, who was also the evening’s host.
What Lauper singing pop songs had to do with the West End’s biggest celebration of its own excellence is another question, and not fair that she was given airtime over Olivier nominated shows that were cut from the terrestrial television broadcast.
It was also been announced that next year’s Olivier Awards will be held at the Royal Albert Hall—a step up again from the Royal Opera House as the event expands yet again.
More reprises and returns as Jesse Eisenberg and Cherry Jones head to the U.K. and the London Palladium hosts pantomime again
Also announced this week: Jesse Eisenberg is to reprise his starring role in his own 2015 Off-Broadway play, The Spoils. The play comes to the West End’s Trafalgar Studios from May 27 with original co-star Kunal Nayyar.
Cherry Jones will reprise her 2014 Tony nominated performance as Amanda Winfield in John Tiffany’s production of The Glass Menagerie as part of hit year’s Edinburgh International Festival, running August 7-20 at the King’s Theatre.
The London Palladium, for a long time the London home for celebrity pantomimes (the annual Christmas staple of British theatre), will host its first panto (as they’re called) this Christmas in nearly 30 years. Cinderella will be staged here for a run from December 9 to January 15.
For further news….
Stay tuned to Playbill.com—and follow me on Twitter here, @shentonstage, for rolling news updates as they happen.