DIVA TALK: A Chat With Now and Forever's Linda Balgord, Star of Aspects of Love, Sunset Boulevard

By Andrew Gans
18 Jan 2013

Balgord and Ron Bohmer in Sunset Boulevard.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Question: Do you remember your first night on Broadway—how that felt or whether it lived up to what you expected Broadway to be like?
Balgord: Well, it was wonderful. You know, that show was quite controversial, the reactions… It was really interesting to be a part of that process and not be on the front line. [Laughs.] I guess is how I'd put it… Boy, that was hard. It was really hard on everybody, but I was not so much in the front of it. I definitely remember being terrified for my audition for the show. [Laughs.] I definitely remember that! You know, of course, it was what I'd been hoping would happen for many years, so it was thrilling—thrilling to be doing my first Broadway show.

Question: Did you get to go on much for Donna?
Balgord: I think we ran about nine months, and I went on 18 times. I still remember that because I guess it's like when you're in high school and you count how many lines you have. I don't know! [Laughs.] But, I was so lucky. I did get to go on, and the first time I went on, it was planned. Donna had a family obligation, so I had a full put-in, and I had great preparation. I was not thrown on, which was a blessing. And, she took a vacation, too, so yeah, I did get to do the role.

Question: What was it like getting to play the part because that's such an emotionally draining role?
Balgord: Yeah, it is. It's extremely dark, but it's a wonderful role and such an enigma of a woman. I really liked playing it. I really did. If you can enjoy something like that… But it was such a great challenge, and Mr. Lapine was really terrific in knowing that I wasn't going to be Donna Murphy—that I couldn't be Donna Murphy—and giving me the room to do it certainly within the structure that was set, but not expecting me to do what Donna was doing. It was a great experience.

Question: You were rather young to be cast as Norma in the Sunset Boulevard tour. Was that a surprise to you that you got that role?
Balgord: Well, I had an involvement with it before I ended up getting cast. I think it was shortly after Aspects has closed, and I had auditioned to be Glenn Close's standby for the L.A. company. And, right after my audition, Andrew flew me over to England to sing at Whitehall Palace. Rupert Murdoch was launching his Sky satellite television channel, and Andrew was providing the entertainment, so there were four singers from his shows—Kevin Anderson sang from Sunset, the gentleman who was playing Phantom sang, the woman playing Cats in London sang. And, I flew over there, and I hadn't been offered anything, but I was introduced as the woman who would soon be playing Norma Desmond "somewhere in the world." [Laughs.] And, so I sang that, but I did not get the standby position, and I was told [that] Trevor thought that I was too young.

Question: It must've been surprising that you didn't get it, especially since they flew you over…
Balgord: I was disappointed, of course, because I thought I was going to get this amazing gig, and then I didn't. And, I thought I was young, too, but actors—you play parts, you play roles. Then, when the tour came up, I went in again, and I, of course, was told, "They're looking at names…" But it came my way at that time, which was amazing, and daunting! [Laughs.]

Question: I think you were the only one, other than Patti, to sing in the original keys, right?
Balgord: I remember when I went into my audition, I had the music in the original keys, which I had sung for Andrew in London, and I was told, "Oh, the songs aren't being performed in those keys." [Laughs.] And, I said, "Well, please would you let me sing it in this key? This is the key that I'm familiar with it in. It changes a lot of…" Even when I was cast, it wasn't certain that I was going to be able to perform them in those keys, but that is what ended up happening.