"With One Look": Denise Whelan Is Norma Desmond in Maine State's Sunset Boulevard, Beginning July 18
By Andrew Gans
Denise Whelan portrays deluded silent-film star Norma Desmond in Maine State Music Theatre's production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard, which runs July 18-Aug. 4 at the Pickard Theater in Brunswick.
Directed and choreographed by Marc Robin with music direction by Edward Reichert, the cast also features Gregg Goodbrod as Joe Gillis, Lauren Blackman as Betty, Curt Dale Clark as Artie, David Girolmo as Max Von Mayerling, Charis Leos as Heather, Bill Nabel as Cecil B. DeMille and Chuck Ragsdale as Manfred.
Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard (with book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton) is based on the 1950 movie of the same name, which featured Gloria Swanson as the reclusive Norma Desmond who falls in love with an unlucky writer — Joe Gillis — who happens upon her home by accident. William Holden played Gillis in the film, which was directed by the late Billy Wilder. Swanson, Holden and Wilder all received Academy Award nominations for their work.
Tony and Olivier Award winner Patti LuPone created the role of Norma Desmond for the musical's world-premiere production in London, earning an Olivier nomination for her performance. Glenn Close played the role in Los Angeles and later in New York, where she won a Tony Award for her work as the aging actress. Other musical Normas include Elaine Paige (London and New York), Betty Buckley (London and New York), Diahann Carroll (Canada), Petula Clark (London and U.S. tour), Debra Byrne (Australia), Helen Schneider (Germany) and Linda Balgord (U.S. tour). Florence Lacey recently played the role at the Signature Theatre.
The musical, according to Maine State, "weaves a magnificent tale of faded glory and unfulfilled ambition. Silent movie star, Norma Desmond, longs for a return to the big screen, having been discarded by tinsel town with the advent of ‘talkies.’ Her glamour has faded in all but her mind. When she meets a handsome, younger, struggling Hollywood screen-writer, Joe Gillis, she sees her chance to return to glory. Their subsequent passionate and volatile relationship leads to an unforeseen and dramatic conclusion."
The production also features set design by Robert Kovach, costume design by Kurt Alger and lighting and sound design by Colin Whitely and Nick Cyr.
Tickets are available by calling the box office at (207) 725-8769 or by visiting msmt.org.
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