A journey to Sunset Boulevard

On stage: Ann Crumb is por­tray­ing Norma Des­mond in Sun­set Boulevard at The Me­dia Mu­sic Theatre through May 18.

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.” ••

To find out more, go to www.TheRes­cue­Ex­press.org. For times and tick­et in­form­a­tion for Sun­set Boulevard, call 610-891-0100 or vis­it me­dia­theatre.org

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