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Glenn Close, Michael Xavier

Glenn Close, Michael Xavier All Photos by Joan Marcus

Glenn Close has returned to Broadway. Triumphantly.  To standing ovations after her big number in the middle of Act II. Starring once again in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, the show that gave her a third Tony Award over twenty years ago, she is bathing in the adoration that is rightfully hers. It seems this show, that won a total of 7 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, was waiting just for her.  Not a ‘come back’, just to be clear, as Norma Desmond hates that word, but a return to the spotlight. I remember seeing the show back in 1995 with Close and Alan Campbell.  It was the hot ticket at the time (although I rue the fact that I didn’t also see Betty Buckley, Close’s replacement) just as it is now.

Glenn Close

Glenn Close

With this production, I can see why.  The score, by Andrew Lloyd Webber is lush and gorgeous for the most part (although many of the more narrative songs tend to become repetitive and boring as the show runs along for two and half hours).  The production, designed with an industrial criss crossing of staircases (James Noone: set design; Tracy Christensen: costume design; Anthony Powell: Close’s costume design; Mark Henderson: lighting design), very different from the lumbering monstrosity that slid in and out back in 1995, has placed the very large 40 piece orchestra center stage in full view.  There is no way to ignore the majestic sound of the music filling the theatre (Mick Potter: sound design; Kristen Blodgette: such supervision and direction: David Lai: music coordinator: David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber: orchestration, vocal, and incidental music arrangements) and that is both a blessing and a curse to this revival. The orchestra’s work is both glorious and rich, like an old fashioned musical should sound. The downside is that at times the orchestra placement distracts from the very personal story that is being told on stage. It clutters the view. In some ways, Sunset Boulevard is a very sad and cynical tale of lost and broken dreams, and having the large ever-present lights and movements of an orchestra in the background takes some of the focus away from the intimacy and tragedy being acted out center stage. Especially distracting when gorgeous black and white projected footage of old Hollywood is distorted by the orchestra’s reading lights. A small complaint I know, but in general, the orchestra’s ever present visual keeps us at a distance from being immersed in the moment and the drama.

Michael Xavier

Michael Xavier and chorus

Close does dominates the stage starting with every entrance she makes, and we mourn the loss with every exit, as the drama deflates when she is not center stage.  As the faded silent film star, Norma Desmond, Close has only improved with age, unlike the neurotic woman that she inhabits on stage.  Her voice, although better than what it was, is still not the powerhouse that I dream of when I think of some of these songs (I couldn’t help but reminisce about hearing Alice Ripley, who actually portrayed Betty Schaeffer in the original Broadway production, belt out Norma’s big song at 54 Below last year – just stupendous). Regardless, Close gives Norma such a depth of character that even with the weaker moments vocally, the performance enhances her desperation concerning her fade from the spotlight. With all of Norma’s demented delusions, Close still manages to make Norma first and foremost a lonely desperate woman, rather than a ghoulish creature. She flickers back and forth from diva-like to despondent with a bat of an eye. She is truly the reason to see this production.

Glen Close

Glen Close

Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard cast

The other actors, Michael Xavier as Joe Gillis, Siobhan Dillon as Betty Schaeffer, and Fred Johanson as her loyal butler, Max von Mayerling are wonderful; vocally beautiful and selling the story as best as they can. But I can’t say that the book or lyrics (Don Black & Christopher Hampton) do them any favors.  Aside from the infamous second act song “As If We Never Said Goodbye” and the endearing “With One Look“, most of the writing feels, oddly enough, rushed and plodding all at the same time.  The title song, “Sunset Boulevard” magnificently performed by Xavier, is trapped in my head since seeing the show, but not necessarily because of its beauty. There is power and a great hook in that song, but sometimes, as it is throughout the show, the music and lyrics are simplistic and melodramatic. Bombastic and too grandiose; it reminds me of Phantom of the Opera, which, to this day, I don’t understand the show’s lasting appeal.  As directed by Lonny Price, with choreography by Stephen Mear, there are lively and engaging moments of fun and movement (i.e. the New Years Eve party song, “This Time Next Year” and “Schwab’s Drugstore“) but they are surrounded by exposition and a narrative that don’t register emotionally. The two makeover scenes, one for Joe Gillis “The Lady’s Paying“, and one for Norma, “A Little Suffering“, border on the ridiculous (and slightly offensive), while others are just mundane.

Michael Xavier

Michael Xavier

As it was once described by critics, this is a show that is all about the star, and when the star is not on stage, it’s about being big, not great, just big.  In this revival, the grand staircase and set pieces are gone, so the ‘bigness’ must come from the music. The orchestra does its job well, as does the cast, but it’s not quite enough to sustain our attention. When the show is attached to Close and her Norma, Sunset Boulevard works, but without that star power, it shrivels down to a very pedestrian tale that doesn’t have the power to intoxicate.  Sunset Boulevard is a windy road, with ups and downs galore, and like any mountain hugging road, the beautiful scenery is only seen from one side of the car.  I’m not sure it’s worth the drive down this Sunset Boulevard, as only about half of it has the great view.

Michael Xavier, Siobhan Dillon.

Michael Xavier, Siobhan Dillon.

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to


Ken Fallin’s Broadway: A Dolls House: Arian Moayed and Jessica Chastain



I went with T2C’s editor to A Dolls House, which inspired this caricature. You can read Suzanna’s review of the show here.

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T2C Sends Our Prayers to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lea Michele



Saturday, March 25, 2023

 A Statement From Andrew Lloyd Webber

 I am shattered to have to announce that my beloved elder son Nick died a few hours ago in Basingstoke Hospital. His whole family is gathered together and we are all totally bereft. 

 Thank you for all your thoughts during this difficult time.

The 75-year-old Oscar-winning composer son Nicholas followed in his father’s footsteps and was a successful composer in his own right, having written Fat Friends The Musical. He was married to musician Polly Wiltshire, who appeared on the soundtrack of his father’s 2019 movie Cats.

During his career, Nicholas also scored music for an adaption of The Little Prince as well as composing numerous TV and film scores, including for the BBC1 drama Loves, Lies, and Records.

Nicholas previously spoke about making his own way in the theatre world away from his famous family name in a 2011 unearthed interview.

He said he wanted to be ‘judged on his own merits’ so dropped his surname when working to see what the reaction would be.

Our hearts and prayers go out to his family.

Also on Saturday Lea Michele updated her fans on the status of her two-year-old’s health via her Instagram  after he was hospitalized earlier this week.  Her son Ever was in the hospital, but is now out due to a ‘scary health issue. She posted a picture backstage in her dressing room ahead of her Broadway performance in Funny Girl. Lea had been out to focus on her family.

“I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for just so much love and support this week. I really really appreciated it”.

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Parade: A Musical That Asks Us Do We Have The Eyes And Ears To See.



Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt Photo by Joan Marcus

I have always loved Jason Robert Brown’s score for Parade. “You Don’t Know This Man,” “This Is Not Over Yet” and the wonderfully romantic “All the Wasted Time” are just the tip of the iceberg for music that stirs your soul and tells a tale of heartbreak. There is a reason this score won the Tony Award in 1999.

Ben Platt Photo By Joan Marcus

The musical now playing on Broadway dramatizes the 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank (Ben Platt), who was accused and convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan (Erin Rose Doyle). The trial was sensationalized by the media, newspaper reporter Britt Craig (Jay Armstrong Johnson) and Tom Watson (Manoel Feliciano), an extremist right-wing newspaper aroused antisemitic tensions in Atlanta and the U.S. state of Georgia. When Frank’s death sentence is commuted to life in prison thanks to his wife Lucille (Micaela Diamond), Leo was transferred to a prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, where a lynching party seized and kidnapped him. Frank was taken to Phagan’s hometown of Marietta, Georgia, and he was hanged from an oak tree. 

Erin Rose Doyle, Photo by Joan Marcus

The telling of this horrid true tale begins with the lush ode to the South in “The Old Red Hills of Home.” Leo has just moved from Brooklyn to in Marietta, where his wife is from and he has been given the job as as a manager at the National Pencil Co. He feels out of place as he sings “I thought that Jews were Jews, but I was wrong!” On Confederate Memorial Day as Lucille plans a picnic, Leo goes to work. In the meantime Mary goes to collect her pay from the pencil factory. The next day Leo is arrested on suspicion of killing Mary, whose body is found in the building. The police also suspect Newt Lee (Eddie Cooper), the African-American night watchman who discovered the body, but he inadvertently directs Starnes’ suspicion to Leo.

Across town, reporter Britt Craig see this story as (“Big News”). Mary’s suitor Frankie Epps (Jake Pederson), swears revenge on Mary’s killer, as does the reporter Watson. Governor John Slaton (Sean Allan Krill) pressures the local prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (the terrific smarmy Paul Alexander Nolan) to get to the bottom of the whole affair. Dorsey, an ambitious politician sees Leo as he ticket to being the Governor and though there are other suspects, he willfully ignores them and goes after Leo.

Sophia Manicone, Emily Rose DeMartino, Ashlyn Maddox Photo By Joan Marcus

The trial of Leo Frank is presided over by Judge Roan (Howard McMillan). A series of witnesses, give trumped up evidence which was clearly is fed to them by Dorsey. Frankie testifies, falsely, that Mary said Leo “looks at her funny.” Her three teenage co-workers, Lola, Essie and Monteen (Sophia Manicone, Emily Rose DeMartino, Ashlyn Maddox), collaborate hauntingly as they harmonize their testimony  (“The Factory Girls”). In a fantasy sequence, Leo becomes the lecherous seducer (“Come Up to My Office”). Testimony is heard from Mary’s mother (Kelli Barrett ) (“My Child Will Forgive Me”) and Minnie McKnight (Danielle Lee Greaves)before the prosecution’s star witness, Jim Conley (Alex Joseph Grayson ), takes the stand. He claims that he witnessed the murder and helped Leo conceal the crime (“That’s What He Said”). Leo is given the opportunity to deliver a statement (“It’s Hard to Speak My Heart”), but it is not enough. He is found guilty and sentenced to hang. The crowd breaks out into a jubilant circus.

Alex Joseph Grayson Photo by Joan Marcus

Act 1, is not as strong as it should have been. I have attended three different incarnations, the last being with Jeremy Jordan as Leo and Joshua Henry as Jim in 2015. Part of the problem is Michael Arden’s direction. Instead of allowing his performers to act, he has them pantomime, as the solo goes forth. “Come Up to My Office” was not as haunting as in past productions. The same can be said of “That’s What He Said”. Who’s stands out in the first act is Jake Pederson as Frankie and Charlie Webb as the Young Soldier who sings “The Old Red Hills of Home.”

Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt Photo by Joan Marcus

In Act 2, Lucille finds Governor Slaton at a party (the hypnotic “Pretty Music” sung wonderfully by Krill) and advocates for Leo. Watson approaches Dorsey and tells him he will support his bid for governor, as Judge Roan also offers his support. The governor agrees to re-open the case, as Leo and Lucille find hope. Slaton realizes what we all knew that the witnesses were coerced and lied and that Dorsey is at the helm. He agrees to commute Leo’s sentence to life in prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, which ends his political career. The citizens of Marietta, led by Dorsey and Watson, are enraged and riot. Leo is transferred to a prison work-farm. Lucille visits, and he realizes his deep love for his wife and how much he has underestimated her (“All the Wasted Time”). With hope in full blaze Lucille leaves as a party masked men kidnap Leo and take him to Marietta. They demand he confess and hang him from an oak tree.

Paul Alexander Nolan, Howard McMillan Photo By Joan Marcus

In Act Two Parade comes together with heart and soul. Diamond, who shines brightly through out the piece is radiant, and her duets with Platt are romantic and devastating. Platt comes into his own and his huge following is thrilled to be seeing him live. Alex Joseph Grayson’s also nails his Second Act songs.

Dane Laffrey’s set works well with the lighting by Heather Gilbert.

Frank’s case was reopened in 2019 and is still ongoing.

Parade has multiple messages and the question is will audiences absorb it. I am so glad this show is on Broadway, making us think and see. This is a must see.

Parade: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 W 45th Street.

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