Monday, July 7, 2014

A Little Glamour for a Summer Monday

For no particular reason except that I stumbled across this gem this evening, here's as close as I've found of late to a master class in stage presence.  Dame Shirley knows what's what.

"As If We Never Said Goodbye" is purest Lloyd Webber, trashy but undeniable, and watching Bassey sing here, one can't help but think she might be the ultimate stage Norma should a Sunset Boulevard of suitable scale ever again be staged: crazy, vulnerable, and utterly taken in by her own charisma.  Norma's nuts, but for the story to work, she has to be Big Diva Nuts, not just sad or pitiable.  She has to be both convinced of and convincing in her appeal.  On film, of course, Gloria Swanson was Total, a star in a star part playing a star, but for various reasons the major stage Normas have been a little more hither and yon.

Glenn Close brought enormous craft but an unsteady voice (and in a musical, unless its a sprechstimme bauble written for Rosalind Russell, the voice is pretty key); Patti Lupone had voice but didn't really summon up the aura of a silent star; Betty Buckley could of course sing the part, but was nervy and neurotic where Norma should just be full-bore Mad Scene.  Faye Dunaway might have carried the part on crazy alone, but wasn't given the chance, and after that it's summer fill-ins and regional stunt castings - your Rita Morenos and Diahann Carrolls, trouper actresses like Karen Mason or Linda Balgord.  Elaine Paige should have done better than she did, and Petula Clark... well.  That one I saw.  That's all I'm saying.

But here, in concert, Shirley nails it.  Imagine sitting in the audience for this, as she heads toward the big moment at just past the 2:30 mark.  She's in the Swanson zone, seductive and charming and monstrous and terrifying.  As Addison DeWitt observed to another star, "You're magnificent."

And sometimes, on a Monday, that's just the thing one needs.  Enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Shirley Bassey as Norma Desmond? Now that would - as you say - be quite terrifying!

    She's everything a diva should be, and I (of course) adore her. Jx