—Excerpt from my 2014 Phindie review of Sunset Boulevard, starring Ann Crumb
Her other Broadway credits include Chess, and Anna Karenina, which led to a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 1993. Crumb then starred opposite John Cullum in a US tour of Man of La Mancha in 1995. She also toured as the star in Evita.
Her recordings include A Broadway Diva Swings, a concert version of Nine with Jonathan Pryce and Elaine Paige, and Unto the Hills, in collaboration with her father. Her forthcoming jazz CD is entitled Goodbye Mr. Jones.
The Media Theatre [104 E State Street Media, PA] her favorite theatrical home apart from Broadway, will host a memorial service for Ann Crumb on Sunday, December 29, 2019, beginning with a 5 pm reception, continuing with a memorial service at 6 pm—with plenty of music.
Below is an excerpt from my 2014 Phindie review of Crumb’s work as an aging diva, one of her last major musical performances in the U.S.—at her beloved Media Theatre.
Ann Crumb’s Norma Desmond swirling around in her glamorous, black and blue dress, looking like wings, as if to take off on her last flight, and her face, in black and white, supersized on a gigantic screen—a scene that brought together a whole lifetime in just a few seconds, blending heaven and hell, when she announces triumphantly, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
The musical at the Media Theatre, directed with great sensitivity by artistic director Jesse Cline, like the film, hit a raw nerve with the audience. Crumb, a totally depowered, female King Lear, dominated every scene in her own dream castle….
The elegant, but fading and reclusive screen queen desperately clung on to her past by attempting to seduce the handsome young writer who couldn’t make it in Hollywood, hoping that he would fix her Salome script, unaware of how poorly written it was….
Few singers could do what Ann Crumb did, transforming herself in such versatile ways that people followed her wherever she went, whether she performed on Broadway or in Media. She stunned audiences as Maria Callas in Master Class, portraying her as an aging, world-star soprano, the prima donna of prima donnas, once on stage in the greatest opera houses around the world, now reduced to teaching voice.
Just as some “devas” in Hindu mythology (from which we get the modern term “diva”) represent the forces of nature and moral values, so Crumb encouraged people to rescue and adopt abandoned dogs. Through The Rescue Express, which she cofounded, she rescued way over 800 dogs and pups from high-kill gas chamber and heart-stick facilities by 2014.
A glamorous demigoddess and prima donna on stage, Crumb, in reality, was a very down-to-earth human being, so aware of the suffering of others that she devoted every moment away from the stage to the welfare of children and animals. Without making any fuss about her good deeds, Ann Crumb had become a kind of female Francis of Assisi—a diva in the best sense of the word.
We will remember the beloved Broadway diva from Media, who graced many stages in her life, as one of the most extraordinary actors and singers of our time.