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Who Will Replace Glenn Close in 'Sunset Boulevard'? : Theater: Producers are searching for 'a star' to be L.A.'s second Norma Desmond. Close's contract expires June 26. She will open on Broadway in November.

February 19, 1994|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Now that it is official that Glenn Close, not Patti LuPone, will be Broadway's first Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard," a new guessing game can begin: Who will be L.A.'s second Norma Desmond?

After numerous rumors and months of speculation, a spokesman for "Sunset" confirmed on Friday that Close will leave L.A.'s "Sunset Boulevard" when her contract expires on June 26. According to the current schedule, she won't open at the Minskoff Theater in New York until Nov. 17. A new Norma will have to be in place here long before Close opens there.

John Barlow, a New York-based spokesman for the L.A. production said Friday that no one has yet been picked to replace Close but added that we should know "shortly. They are now going through the Norma search." Barlow said they are looking for "a star."

The role is "the part of a lifetime. You'd eat somebody's laundry for a year to get that part," Meryl Streep recently told Entertainment Weekly. However, a spokeswoman for Streep said the actress herself is "not a possibility at this point."

An unconfirmed report by columnist Liz Smith on Wednesday that Close got the New York gig so upset LuPone that she missed three performances in the role in London on Wednesday and Thursday, said LuPone spokesman Robert Garlock. However, Garlock said she went on Friday night.

Because LuPone's London contract stipulated that she also would play the role in New York, she is likely to receive a hefty sum as a buyout. Garlock said she would demand compensation "in the millions."

"She's disappointed she's not in the show, but she's also disappointed by the way she was treated," said Garlock, who added that the diva was informed of Close's casting only one hour prior to curtain time on Wednesday--and it was her agent, who had read about it in the papers, who told her.

Garlock cited several other disagreements between LuPone and the show's producer-composer Andrew Lloyd Webber: She was not given approval over who would replace her co-star Kevin Anderson in London, as Garlock said she had been promised; she was not allowed to sing two songs from the show at the Westwood Playhouse in January, 1993, and only later was told that it was because Barbra Streisand was recording the same songs.

The stream of rumors that she might be replaced were upsetting, said Garlock. Some of these were fed by Lloyd Webber himself. For example, in a magazine article in The Times last month, Lloyd Webber was quoted saying that Close "is a joy and fun to work with. Which I must say is a change from, shall we say, \o7 another \f7 Norma we've had." In the same article, Lloyd Webber added that LuPone is "a superb performer. But what she must do is to understand not to be threatened. Patti just needs to relax a bit. That's all. And not worry."

Spokesmen for Lloyd Webber could not be reached by press time.

Garlock said LuPone was approached by the producers of the new Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical, "Passion," but didn't consider the request because it would have required her to break her "Sunset" contract. A spokesman for "Passion" confirmed the show's casting agents had investigated LuPone's availability last fall, before a workshop production was held, but were told that she was unavailable. Donna Murphy has had the role since then.

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