What's Hot in London: Glenn Close Is London-Bound with Sunset and the Standard Lowers Theirs for Awards Voting

News   What's Hot in London: Glenn Close Is London-Bound with Sunset and the Standard Lowers Theirs for Awards Voting
 
Glenn Close, who famously usurped Patti LuPone to don the turban of Norma Desmond in the 1995 Broadway premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard, is to play the role for the first time on the London stage — 21 years since she won the Tony Award for its original New York outing. As reported here, she will appear in a 43-performance run at the London Coliseum, beginning April 1, 2016.

LuPone had been contractually guaranteed that she would reprise the role in New York after she originated the role in the West End — but was told while she was still doing the show at the Adelphi Theatre that she would not be going to Broadway after all. As she told it in her own autobiography, the results were not pretty: "I didn't take it well," she confessed. "From the outside, I’m sure it sounded like all hell had broken loose in my dressing room, which in fact it had. I was hysterical … I took to batting practice in my dressing room with a floor lamp. I swung at everything in sight in sight — mirrors, wig stands, makeup, wardrobe, furniture, everything. Then I heaved a lamp out the second-floor window. I said, 'I'm not going on tonight, I don’t know when I’ll return.' I was sobbing. I do remember cast members hearing the screams and sobs and coming in and trying to console me, hugging me and feeling helpless."

Glenn Close
Glenn Close


Nor did she forgive and forget what Close's own role in taking over hers might have been. She notes that Close was concerned about not being seen as like the Eve Harrington character in "All About Eve": "Well, if you don’t want to be seen that way, pick up the phone and tell me how terrible you feel about all of this. Which she never did. Never. Do I think Glenn Close was complicit in what happened to me? Hard to say. But I do know is that from the time she was announced, I never heard from her. No, 'Good luck from one Norma to another,' no 'Congratulations on your opening. no 'I'm sorry for what happened to you, but I had nothing to do with it.' Nothing. You might think it would have been a common courtesy, if nothing else."

LuPone would make her own peace with the show by performing songs from it for the first time in London in a series of conversational concerts with Playbill.com's Seth Rudetsky in 2013. As he told it at the time on Playbill here, "I kept getting tweets asking if Patti had sung anything from Sunset Boulevard. She had discussed it and how upsetting it was to be fired from the production but has never sung it. I began to realize how much people wanted it. This is London, where people saw her do it and loved it!… I decided to ask her if she'd be willing to sing something from Sunset. She wrote that she would try, but she didn't remember the music. I took that as a YES, and got music emailed to me from my trusty friend, Michael Lavine. We sound-checked as usual ("I have to run the high notes to see if they're there."), and at the end I asked if we could try a song. As soon as I mentioned Sunset Boulevard, her husband Matt beamed, and said it would be so wonderful if she would sing something from the show. I opted for "With One Look" because I'm obsessed with how she doesn't breathe before the final high note. Also, I'm obsessed with the original key, which they had to transpose for Glenn Close."

And then she took one more look at with "With One Look," and it was a triumph: "It was very emotional for her to sing it again. She started singing and stopped after four beats to collect herself. She started again and NAILED IT. So beautiful, so moving and the final D was AMAZING!!!!!!" Close, I assume, won't be going near that final D.

Longest-running London Theatre Awards Ceremony Throws Best Musical Category Open to a Public Vote
The Evening Standard Theatre Awards, now in their 61st year and to be held this year at the West End's Old Vic on November 22, are courting publicity but also diminishing their credibility further by throwing open the vote for the Best Musical Award to a public vote of Radio 2 listeners, instead of the paper's usual panel of specialist critics and commentators.



The integrity of the awards were already dealt a serious blow two years ago when three of its senior judges resigned when the paper's own critic who votes on the panel changed his personal vote after the results had created a tie, thus enabling Helen Mirren to take home the award for Best Actress for her West End appearance in The Audience that she would subsequently reprise on Broadway.

As Charles Spencer, then the theatre critic of the Daily Telegraph and one of the judges who resigned after this debacle, said at the time, "My jaw dropped when Mirren received the prize, fine though her performance was. The suspicion must be that Mirren, a major star, was felt by the Standard to be a sexier winner with a greater appeal to the paper’s readership than the other leading contenders."

There's no second guessing a public vote, of course, except that instead of being a vote for what's best it will inevitably turns out to be for what is most popular — and there's no guarantee that those who cast their votes will have even seen the shows, but could be voting following social media pressure instead.

Opening this Week
Amongst the highlights in the week ahead are:

  • There are 80 — yes, 80 - world premieres of British musicals on consecutive nights at the West End's Apollo Theatre, kicking off tonight (Sept. 24) when Showstopper! The Improvised Musical begins its first extended West End season at the Apollo Theatre, The shows are made up on the spot from scratch in front of the audience, who participate in their creation, every night!
  • Pure Imagination (opening Sept. 28 at the St James Theatre) is a revue celebrating the work of Leslie Bricusse including the title song that can also currently be heard in the West End in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The cast includes West End veterans Dave Willetts (who took over from Michael Crawford in The Phantom of the Opera and Siobhan McCarthy (the original Donna in Mamma Mia!).
  • Three-time Tony Award winner Mark Rylance returns to the West End to star in Farinelli and the King (opening Sept. 29 at the Duke of York's Theatre), written by his wife Claire van Kampen. The play, tells the story Farinelli, once the world’s most famous castrato and one of the greatest celebrities of his time in 18th century Spain, who trades fame and fortune in the opera houses of Europe for a life of servitude at the court of King Philippe V (played by Rylance).
  • Lyndsey Turner, currently represented in London by her production of Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch at the Barbican, directs a new stage adaptation of Sarah Waters’s Tipping the Velvet (opening Sept. 28 at Lyric Hammersmith) Turner, who also directed Machinal on Broadway, is best known for her West End transfer of Chimerica from the Almeida.

For more updates
Follow me on Twitter here, @shentonstage, for rolling news updates as they happen! And keep checking the international section of Playbill.com for major stories.

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