On April 1, as Glenn Close sings “As If We Never Said Goodbye” in the Broadway revival of Sunset Boulevard, another Tony winner (and former co-star) will present the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black anthem at one of midtown’s newest cabaret spaces: The Green Room 42. And while she won’t have the 40-piece orchestra, dramatic spotlight, and white velvet cuffs that Close gets at the Palace Theatre, every bit of Norma Desmond’s hope, desperation, and nostalgia will shine through.
Alice Ripley, who played Betty Schaefer in Sunset Boulevard’s 1994 Broadway premiere, will graduate to the leading role of Norma—at least for one song—in her 8 PM concert. In her show, the Next to Normal Tony winner will explore the idea of identity while revisiting songs from shows she’s performed in on Broadway and regionally.
“This was my favorite Norma song, and as it turns out, it’s my favorite musical theatre song,” Ripley told Playbill during a rehearsal for the solo show. “It’s about the magic of what we do. It talks about the makeup, the lights—I’m a sucker for all that.”
The first time she heard the song performed was the evening she was cast in the Broadway production, during the Los Angeles tryout. Betty is the only character not on stage during the number, so once in the show, Ripley would routinely watch from the wings—or, in the case of the Tony Awards performance, at home with popcorn. “That gave me some perspective,” she explains, “literal and otherwise—to be able to stand in the wings and watch this number.”
Ripley has performed the song in previous concerts with her musical director Jessica Means—a collaboration Ripley refers to as a “beautiful balance.”
“I can just stand there, and the sound of the music reminds me of when I watched Glenn stand there in the big white cuffs,” she says. “That informs your movement. You visualize it, but also, there’s this three or four-dimensional capability you have to feel with your heart or imagination. It makes you move a certain way. Am I cold? Am I hot? Do I want to take the coat off? Is it just right? I think everything is just right in that moment.”
So is Ripley read for her close-up—so to speak? “Let’s just say I’m ready when it’s ready for me,” she said, mulling over the idea of eventually headlining a full production. “I’m just at the beginning of being ready to play Norma, and if I play my cards right, I’ll be around for a while, so we can wait until it comes back again. There’s a theatre in San Diego [Moonlight Amphitheatre] that asked me to come play Norma this summer—I might do it there.”
Until then, catch Ripley at The Green Room 42 (570 Tenth Avenue), April 1 at 8PM. Tickets are $40 with no food or beverage minimum and are available here. Also heading to the venue are Josh Groban and Denée Benton, who will headline a concert alongside The Great Comet composer Dave Malloy April 2.