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Glenn Close revisits 'most challenging role I've ever had'

Associated Press logo Associated Press 2/9/2017 By MARK KENNEDY, AP Entertainment Writer
FILE - This Nov. 2, 2015 file photo shows Glenn Close during a photo call for the musical "Sunset Boulevard" in London. Close is reprising her Tony-winning role as Norma Desmond in the English National Opera's stripped-down revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP, File) © The Associated Press FILE - This Nov. 2, 2015 file photo shows Glenn Close during a photo call for the musical "Sunset Boulevard" in London. Close is reprising her Tony-winning role as Norma Desmond in the English National Opera's stripped-down revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP, File)
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NEW YORK (AP) — Returning to reprise one of her most iconic stage triumphs was relatively easy for Glenn Close. All she had to do was go to her closet.

FILE - This June 12, 2016 file photo shows Glenn Close , left, and Andrew Lloyd Webber at the Tony Awards in New York. Close is reprising her Tony-winning role as Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard," the English National Opera's stripped-down revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.(Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File) © The Associated Press FILE - This June 12, 2016 file photo shows Glenn Close , left, and Andrew Lloyd Webber at the Tony Awards in New York. Close is reprising her Tony-winning role as Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard," the English National Opera's stripped-down revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.(Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

The actress keeps and stores most of her old costumes, including all the glorious ones she last wore playing the delusional former film star Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard." So for a new version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical for London last year, she volunteered to dig them out, including all the wigs. She even had Desmond's chimpanzee puppet.

Most people can't fit into their clothes from five years ago. But Close, 69, who is wiry with close-cropped white hair, had few problems putting on elegant dresses more than two decades later.

"Some of the ones, I have to say, had to be altered a little bit. It's not like I'm the same size I was 22 years ago," she said, laughing. "I have to say not hugely, but enough."

Audiences will get to see her in them on Broadway as Close brings "Sunset Boulevard " to the Palace Theatre with a 40-piece orchestra. She won a Tony Award in 1995 as Desmond but hasn't checked her off her bucket list, calling it "one of the greatest stories ever written."

"I'm always in for a challenge and this is the most challenging role I've ever had in my career. It's physically challenging, it's musically challenging, it's emotionally challenging," she said. "It keeps you really alive."

"Sunset Boulevard," based on the Billy Wilder film, tells the story of a faded film star who recruits a young writer to help relaunch her career, with disastrous results. It has the immortal line, "All right Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up" and the songs "With One Look," ''As If We Never Said Goodbye" and "Perfect Year."

The latest version took London by storm under the direction of Lonny Price, who has stripped down the show, tells it from the point of view of the young writer and sets it in an abandoned soundstage. He asked Close to be as natural as possible.

"Really, it's a middle-aged woman fighting for life, in her career and in her personal life. So I think it's more human and, I hope, more emotional in some ways," Price said. "I think you may admire it less and love it more."

Close was last on Broadway in 2014 in a revival of the play "A Delicate Balance." Her film and TV roles include "Dangerous Liaisons," ''Air Force One," ''Fatal Attraction" and "Damages."

She said the poignancy of Norma's story hasn't diminished as Hollywood continues its love affair with youth. "A woman who gets older has a harder time finding great parts — great parts that match the power they have. That's never going to change," she said.

Michael Xavier, who plays Close's love interest, is making his Broadway debut and calls it a "complete dream come true." He used to blast and sing "Sunset Boulevard" songs in his bedroom when he was 15 years old.

Now he finds himself in one of four Lloyd Webber musicals simultaneously playing on Broadway — joining "The Phantom of the Opera," ''Cats" and "School of Rock." It's a feat only matched by the great Richard Rodgers.

"I think the reason Andrew Lloyd Webber endures is because he's such a fantastic composer. The music is so resonate. It captures the essence of the story," said Xavier.

For Lloyd Webber, landing Close again was a coup because he thinks she adds a special dimension to the role: "She is and has been a screen goddess. So you kind of get the thought, 'Oh yes, she could have been a silent movie star.' It's all there."

Close joked that there was another reason she was chosen: "I had the monkey."

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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