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West End interview: Sunset Boulevard's Michael Xavier
Andrew Lloyd Webber's iconic musical Sunset Boulevard is preparing to return to the West End, in a brand new semi-staged production at the London Coliseum. Starring Broadway's original Norma Desmond, Glenn Close, her leading man Michael Xavier is no stranger to the West End having starred in 'Love Story', 'Into the Woods' and most recently 'The Pajama Game'.
We caught up with Michael during rehearsals for Lonny Price's new production of Sunset Boulevard, which begins performances at the London Coliseum on 1 April 2016, to hear more about starring alongside Ms Close and how he approaches such a difficult role.
DOH: How does it feel to be starring opposite Glenn Close in such an iconic revival?
MX: It's a total joy! She's a total joy! We're having lots of fun but I'm getting to play opposite one of the finest actors that has ever lived. I'm learning so much every day!
DOH: Is Joe Gillis a role you've always coveted? What's your personal connection to Sunset Boulevard?
MX: Yes. It's a great role in a great story! I used to sing Sunset Boulevard in my bedroom when I was a teenager and wished I could get to sing it on a stage one day. No stage is more grand than the Coliseum!
DOH: How have you worked to find humanity in Joe's character and draw out a likeable or relatable quality in him as opposed to being more functionary?
MX: Joe is so much more than functionary. He's a victim of the machine of Hollywood that has drained him of his creative juice. He's dropping with humanity. A man with aspirations and dreams that have been crushed by a series of misfortune. He strives to keep fighting until he finally gives in and settles for a more 'comfortable' life. How many human beings do that every day?! We have an incredible director in Lonny Price who is keeping a keen eye on any wayward acting choices so between us Joe is true, tarnished and terse!
DOH: Joe is onstage for 98% of the show – how are you maintaining your stamina throughout rehearsals for performances?
MX: I'm living like a monk! Fresh fruit juice with so many supplement powders every morning, the gym every day, two coffees, supplement tablets, no alcohol, no refined sugars and plenty of water. It's so dull but it works!
DOH: How do you as an actor see past the previous productions and find your own interpretation of the role of Joe?
MX: Simple - I don't watch them! I take Joe from the text and nothing else.
DOH: Can we expect any changes or additions to the production, which hasn't been seen in this scale in London for almost 20 years?
MX: Well you can expect an incredible ENO orchestra of 51 blowing you away every performance for a start. It's also been so beautifully and simply directed that you are forced to listen to the story and lyrics more than ever before. It makes for a much more immersive experience.
DOH: What's the best thing about working alongside Glenn Close? Is her knowledge of the show and the role ever intimidating?
MX: At first I was worried that she would be remembering her production and thinking "oh we did it better back then!" But luckily Glenn has admitted it's like doing a brand new show and it's so different for her that we are reinventing the show and making it feel fresh again.
DOH: Do you have a favourite moment of the show or the score?
MX: The moment when Norma goes back to the studio after 20 years and she sings "I don't know why I'm frightened. I know my way around here." Glenn performing that moment is worth the ticket price alone..
DOH: Who is your biggest musical theatre inspiration and why?
MX: Daniel Evans. He's an incredible actor, a beautiful singer, has transcended his role as a performer to become an immensely talented director, supports young performers and above all, he's a generous and kind-hearted man.
Buy tickets to see Michael Xavier in Sunset Boulevard by clicking here.