Sunset Boulevard

Original Cast Recording

Really Useful Records, 1994



As an Andrew Lloyd Webber fan, I've done the requisite attend- Phantom-twice and spend hours analyzing Liz Callaway vs. Elaine Paige vs. Betty Buckley in the role of Grizabella. Cats being my ultimate favorite (being a cat-lover and a Star Trek fan to boot), I tend to listen to "the Other" ALW records with prejudice; but I don't need to do that with the lavishly gargantuan Sunset Boulevard.

This show has everything; sure, the usual John Napier sets, Don Black in the lyrics team (though like everyone else, I miss the Tim Rice combo), and a perfect "diva" role which seems to be all the rage these days. But this latter part of "everything" became the origin of even jucier "everything"s. Producer fires star (stars, in this case). Star sues producer. Producer hires someone who can't sing the role, but this miscast pulls off the show to almost unanimous rave reviews.

But in time when it all settles and the controversy wears off, the show (which has a considerably longer lifespan than a movie) is left to its own devices, which explains why my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Sunset Boulevard is leaving Broadway after the fraction of the runtime Phantom of the Opera or Cats ("now and forever") are enjoying.

The centerpiece of the record is Glenn Close, and this review is no better than any of the other reviews out there. She is not much of a conventional belter, but the vocals are very serviceable, and her portrayal of Norma Psychotic Desmond is simply mezmerizing; comparable to reading The Vampire Lestat through the silent night. Her voice is the only thing percieveable on the record but like any capable artist, she shows you much more in songs like "With One Look", "As If We Never Said Goodbye" and "The Final Scene". I'm sure the sacked Patti LuPone and Faye Dunaway might have sung the role to perfection; but I seriously doubt they would've come up with the same effect (which I'd prefer to LuPone's EDGE any day).

George Hearn, who plays Desmond's butler, also puts up an equally formidable performance in "The Greatest Star Of All" and a host of key lines ("And wipe your feet." "It's not Madame they want ..."). It's this ability to capture the senses of the audience which makes this record work.

So it's too bad that the rest of the cast doesn't live up to the noir score. Curse words sound awkward and the Hollywood talk/singing in "Every Movie's A Circus" and "Let's Have Lunch" sound like New Yorkers imitating Alicia Silverstone in Clueless. Alan Campbell is unconvincing as the cynical Joe Gillis which rules out more than two thirds of this album. Judy Kuhn does what she can with the role, but the score isn't right for her; it needs more acting.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's prodigious pen produced three single-ready songs, and all of them are sung by Close (Desmond). "Surrender", "With One Look" and "As If We Never Said Goodbye" all echo with space enough for creative improv by whoever is singing, and Close did a better job than I thought she did (this was realized after I heard the Barbra Streisand versions; never would I have thought I'd see the day when the Babs version of a song isn't number one on my list). All of them are characteristically dramatic, the lyrics flawless and appropriately stark in arragement.

It's a bad album with excellent spots. Sure musical soundtracks take on a whole new meaning when you see the actual show, but previous ALW productions have done fine as stand-alone albums. The set, the diva, the controversy ... one can't blame their role in the Broadway-closing of Sunset Boulevard ... but you can with the album.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1997 JB and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Really Useful Records, and is used for informational purposes only.