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Dunaway set for ‘Sunset Boulevard’ run

GOOD MORNING: “This will work,” Andrew Lloyd Webber told Faye Dunaway Thursday morning when he called to say she will take over for Glenn Close as Norma Desmond when Close departs “Sunset Boulevard” at the Shubert June 26. “What this part calls for is a great dramatic actress who can sing — and you’re it,” Webber added to an ecstatic Dunaway. “What a classy thing for him to do — to call me,” the actress said later. She sang for Webber and his musical director, David Caddick, at a suite in the Bel Air hotel on Tuesday. She was accompanied at the piano by Tom Shell as she sang “With One Look” and “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from the show. “Andrew asked me to sing it higher,” Faye said. “He let me play it like a prizefighter, and I discovered a lot about myself as I did it. I’ve always wanted to sing and I’ve never sung.” How does she sound? I asked her to sing something. She did — these first couple of lines from “As If We Never Said Goodbye”: “I don’t know why I’m frightened — I know my way around.””Sing it higher,” I bravely asked her, taking a cue from Webber. She did. Her voice was perfect and strong — the emotion was even stronger. “It’s incredible,” Dunaway said. “How often, at this time in someone’s career, do you discover another possibility? It’s a new world for me. He (Webber) has been so accessible. He goes with the acting ability, encouraging the voice. He’s so elegant!” In addition to working daily on her voice (for two months), Dunaway also started rehearsals last week with Marlon Brando and Johnny Depp and director Jeremy Leven for the bigscreen “Don Juan de Marco and the Centerfold.” Dunaway plays Brando’s wife. They’re a couple whose love is rejuvenated by a passion for life lighted by Depp. “Brando becomes his old self again — it’s about being in love and the importance of love. He (Brando) is so wonderful. He plays it with such a twinkle. He is enchanting and Johnny Depp is the heir apparent — a prince of an actor.” (They also worked together in “Arizona Dreamer.”) The sked of “Don Juan” will work out fine for Faye to start “Sunset” and rehearsals in time, she said Thursday afternoon as she left — on a cloud — for a singing lesson.

“HANG IN THERE, HILLARY,” Valerie Harper encouraged the First Lady after Thursday’s White House meeting with her, Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, Karen Nussbaum (head of the Women’s Dept. of the Labor Dept.) and Linda Lavin. “Telling Hillary to ‘Hang in’ is like telling water to run downstream — it’s natural for her,” Reich, who’s known the First Lady for 30 years, told Harper. An initiative to determine working women’s needs will result from a questionnaire going to 10 million magazine readers to shape policies to support working women. Harper was there under the auspices of the Hollywood Policy Center. And she and Lavin were chosen since they’ve portrayed so many working women on screen. “For the first time,” Harper said, “working women will now be able to tell government what their needs are.” Harper says she and other thesps will travel to many cities to spread the word. But first, she starts an NBC telepic, “All American Girl,” in which she plays the mother of Kelly Martin, who murders a cheerleader played by Tori Spelling. Last week, Harper completed her CBS pilot, playing a working woman in “Office” for Witt/Thomas … Quincy Jones is invited to join Hillary Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, a Congressional group, plus Gen. Colin Powell and others at the inauguration of Nelson Mandela next Tuesday. “I am absolutely thrilled,” Quincy told ’em. He’s met many times with the president-elect, in South Africa as well as in the U.S. Jones departs for D.C. Saturday for a reception at the Gores’ house pre-departure with the group for South Africa. “I’m like a kid,” said Jones, who is already planning to organize a reception for Mandela when he next visits the U.S. … President Clinton will be in L.A. May 20 for a fundraiser at Green Acres for Dianne Feinstein’s re-election. The vice president will be at the Lew Wassermans’ June 2 for a fundraiser to benefit Sen. Ted Kennedy — and other Democratic senatorial candidates.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford have had it with “crude, ignorant and libelous” material that sprung from a French tabloid and was repeated in ditto sheets in England. So the Geres bought a full-page ad in today’s London Times (cost approximately $ 25,000) to “correct the falsehoods and rumors and hope it will alleviate the concerns of our friends and fans.” They state they married because they “love each other,” they are “monogamous and heterosexual,” look forward to a family, have no pre-nuptial agreements and ask for “a basic right to privacy,” so “please be responsible, truthful and kind”… Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, named after Ralph Edwards’ radio show, holds its 45th Fiesta this weekend. Of course Ralph will be there.

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