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 as Norma Desmond
Photo by Joan Marcus

Question: What was it like playing that role? What were some of the challenges?
Balgord: Well, it's exhausting. It's a physically and vocally exhausting show. Again, emotionally—so much darkness. And, I think, although I stayed away—and, you know, there wasn't so much internet then—but USA Today entertainment headline was "Sunset Boulevard Hits the Road with No Star to Lead It," so I dealt with that everywhere. "Why didn't they cast a star in this production?" And, because Andrew had started it with a huge musical theatre star, and then a huge movie star. That was certainly something that never, never went away.

Question: That must have been difficult as an actor to deal with. You're up there putting your heart and soul into it…
Balgord: Well, absolutely, because I'm just a woman who walked in the room and won a role. That's who I am. It's kind of unfortunate… You get probably the biggest win of your career, and all anybody says is "You're not it." I mean, it's tough! [Laughs.] So, luckily, there was no internet, so I stayed away from it, but there were articles in Variety about them replacing me with Diahann Carroll. There was a lot of talk, and a lot of people think that's why the tour failed because, of course, RUG started falling apart… I don't know if that's true, and, yes, I can't quite bear if that were true! [Laughs.] But I had many people who were in a position say that that really wasn't it.

Question: Did you get to enjoy it at all because I always think that "As If We Never Said Goodbye" has to be one of the great moments to play?
Balgord: Absolutely. I did enjoy it. I think the first six months were really great, and after six months I started getting tired. I think I held up really pretty well for six months. When you're doing the show, you're doing the show. Unless you're losing your voice, you're not thinking about how tired you are, so I had an amazing time just inhabiting that world and being able to live in that mansion and wear the wardrobe and take that journey. It was amazing. It was just amazing. And, I did. I had a lot of fun—a lot of fun doing it—but certainly there were a lot of mitigating factors. [Laughs.]

Balgord in Cats.
photo by Carol Rosegg

Question: You were also in the final company of Cats.
Balgord: I was, yeah.

Question: How did that come about and what was that like getting to be part of a legendary run?
Balgord: It came about because of Sunset. That's why I ended up doing Cats. And, I had a great time. I really did. I love "Memory." I love singing that song. And, the older I get, the more impact it has for me. [Laughs.] It resonates in different ways. It was great. I have nothing but good stuff to say about doing it. I had a great time.

Question: Getting to the revue that you're doing now. Which Andrew Lloyd Webber songs are you getting to do, and are there some new ones that you're getting to perform that you haven't done before?
Balgord: The only song that I haven't done before is from Song and Dance. I'm doing "Take that Look Off Your Face." … I'm singing "Memory." I'm singing "With One Look," and I'm singing "Anything But Lonely," so it's heavy lifting. It's all those tragic 11 o'clock… Well, "With One Look" is not an 11 o'clock number, but, you know what I mean… They're the big, big ballads, so they wanted to give me something that was a bit more playful and a bit lighter, so to speak. [Laughs.]

Question: How is the revue structured? Is it by show or is there a story?
Balgord: The songs are grouped, they're connected—and I don't mean connected like the people that sing them are not characters that are connected—but thematically there is a main idea running through… The Really Useful people are going to be at our orchestra rehearsal tonight because I don't think they've licensed the show to do it in this kind of a way before… I'm not sure, but I know that they're here because they had a very specific list of what we could perform and how we could perform it, so I think they're here to check on it, and we've been told that things might be changing… I think what's interesting, aside from, of course, the wonderful songs—and they've got amazing singers here—is there's a lot of dance in this show. They're doing a lot of the Variations from Song and Dance, and the choreography is really beautiful, so it's an interesting evening, in that it's not just, "Here comes someone singing a solo. Here comes someone singing another solo." There's great movement throughout it.