BACKSTAGE drama eclipsed the action on stage at Sunset Boulevard, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical headed for New York with a new leading lady. Patti LuPone is out - and said to be crushed about being dumped in favour of Glenn Close as the star of next season's Broadway production. The move could cost the English composer at least US$1 million (HK$7.72 million) to buy LuPone out of her contract. The Really Useful Theatre Company, Lloyd Webber's management company, said Close would play ageing screen goddess Norma Desmond when the musical opens on November 17 at the Minskoff Theatre. Speculation LuPone would be replaced has simmered since she opened in the musical last summer in London. British reviewers were mostly enthusiastic, but many American critics, including the influential Frank Rich of The New York Times, panned her performance. When Close opened the Los Angeles show last December, she received rave reviews including one from Vincent Canby in The New York Times.