These are frightening times, and we all must take necessary precautions as we social distance and self-isolate. That being said, you deserve a break every now and then. Welcome to Playbill's Daily Distraction.
Day 11: Alright, Mr. DeMille, I'm Ready for My "I Want" Song
Hollywood legend and occasional Broadway star Gloria Swanson was born on this day in 1899. The performer immortalized the character of Norma Desmond, Sunset Boulevard's faded silent movie star with delusions of a
comeback return. But some 25 years before Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Black, and Christopher Hampton adapted the 1950 movie as a musical, Swanson herself attempted to bring her character to the stage. Watch above as she performs a number from her proposed musical on The Steve Allen Show.
The project, titled Boulevard!, featured a score by cabaret entertainer Dickson Hughes and his then-partner Richard Stapley and was to be directed by Swanson herself. This number, titled "Those Wonderful People," marks Norma's introduction as she envisions her return to the lights of Hollywood.
Both the song and performance are honestly uncomfortable and confusing, from the free-association-esque lyrics, to misguided sprechstimme, to a dream ballet sequence. Swanson gets through the vocals, giving Norma a soprano timbre as opposed to the belt once might associate with Betty Buckley or Patti LuPone.
Life imitates art, and Paramount never officially gave stage permissions to the creative team. So apart from this TV performance, a demo album, and undoubtedly some Swanson-hosted private soirees, the closest the musical came to fruition was decades later, when, in 1994, Hughes reworked the material into an autobiographical account of the development for a run at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
We're all dreaming of that moment when we can return to the theatre—with all "those wonderful people." Hogeye will turn on the spotlight, and the show will go on as if we never said goodbye. Until then...we at least have YouTube spirals.
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