She won a Best Actress Award for her work in Sunset Boulevard in Colorado.
Now, Ann Crumb is once again portraying Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical at The Media Music Theatre through May 18.
Sunset Boulevard is Webber’s Tony-winning musical based on the classic 1950 Billy Wilder film in which a faded silent movie star believes she has a chance to make a comeback on the silver screen.
Originally portrayed in the film by legendary actress Gloria Swanson, Crumb said that while she saw the film many years ago, she’s not trying to imitate Swanson’s performance, but trying to bring her own special interpretation to the role.
“Personally, I try to get into Norma’s head in order to bring her to life,” Crumb said. “I can’t do an imitation of someone else who did it on film. No matter what part you take on, you have to approach it in a fresh way and make it your own.”
Crumb said her role is an extremely emotional and passionate role.
“Norma is a larger-than-life character, and when you get caught up in all her emotions, it’s hard to sing. And if you’re crying or yelling, it’s also hard to sing. So this is a demanding role to play, to say the least.”
Crumb, the daughter of composer George Crumb and sister of composer David Crumb, made her Broadway debut in 1987 as a member of the original cast of Les Miserables. With many more appearances to her credit, she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role in Anna Karenina.
But acting wasn’t always her first career choice.
“Actually,” she said, “I wanted to be a concert violinist because my whole family was in music. But the first of many accidents I had ended up with my arm in a cast for two years. That was the time I was hoping to get a big scholarship. So that was pretty much the end of that.”
However, fate stepped in when Crumb began attending the University of Michigan.
“I knew very little about theater, but I became increasingly interested in it. And as I began to get roles in various plays, I did the opposite of what most people do. Eventually, I paid for part of my graduate work as an actress.”
And the work continued. Over the years, Crumb appeared on stage and on TV, including Law and Order, Criminal Intent and One Life to Live. The recipient of a Barrymore Award and an Arts Recognition Award, she’s also traveled the globe as part of jazz and classical concerts.
“I’ve always considered myself more of an actress than a singer because I began acting long before I began singing,” Crumb explained.
But all that began to change once she heard a CD of Evita.
“I was so fascinated by it that I thought I’d better work on my singing so that I could play the role one day.”
And play it she did, touring in the title role in numerous regional theaters around the country.
Off stage, Crumb is intensely committed to the cause of animal rescue and adoption. In 2009, she coordinated the Rescue Express, a “dog lift” for more than 50 dogs, all slated for euthanasia at shelters in the Midwest, to no-kill rescues in the Northeast where homes could be found for them.
“When I found it was difficult to manage to save dogs and transport them to other rescues, I decided to set up my own rescue.” ••