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Sunset Boulevard (musical)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sunset Boulevard
Original West End Logo
MusicAndrew Lloyd Webber
LyricsDon Black
Christopher Hampton
BookDon Black
Christopher Hampton
BasisSunset Boulevard
by Charles Brackett
Billy Wilder
D. M. Marshman Jr.
PremiereJuly 12, 1993: Adelphi Theatre, London
Productions1991 Sydmonton Festival
1993 West End
1994 Broadway
1996 1st US tour
1998 2nd US tour
2001 1st UK tour
2008 1st West End revival
2016 London
2017 Broadway revival
2017 2nd UK Tour
2023 West End revival
2024 Broadway revival
AwardsTony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award for Best Original Score
Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical

Sunset Boulevard is a musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and lyrics and libretto by Don Black and Christopher Hampton. It is based on the 1950 film of the same title.

The plot revolves around Norma Desmond, a faded star of the silent screen era, living in the past in her decaying mansion on the fabled Los Angeles street. When young screenwriter Joe Gillis accidentally crosses her path, she sees in him an opportunity to make her return to the big screen, with romance and tragedy to follow.

Opening first in London in 1993, the musical has had several long runs internationally and enjoyed extensive tours. However, it has been the subject of several legal battles and ultimately lost money due to its extraordinary running costs.

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  • Sunset Boulevard | 2023 West End Trailer

Transcription

Background

From approximately 1952 to 1956, Gloria Swanson worked with actor Richard Stapley (aka Richard Wyler) and cabaret singer and pianist Dickson Hughes on a musical adaptation originally entitled Starring Norma Desmond, then Boulevard!.[1] It ended on a happier note than the film, with Norma allowing Joe to leave and pursue a happy ending with Betty. Rights holder Paramount Pictures originally had given Swanson verbal permission to proceed with the musical, but there had been no formal legal arrangement. On 20 February 1957, Paramount executive Russell Holman wrote to Swanson asking her to cease work on the project because "it would be damaging for the property to be offered to the entertainment public in another form as a stage musical."[2] In 1994, Hughes incorporated material from the production into Swanson on Sunset, based on his and Stapley's experiences in writing Boulevard!. A recording of the entire score, which had been housed in the Gloria Swanson archives at the University of Texas, was released on CD in 2008.

In the early 1960s, Stephen Sondheim outlined a musical stage adaptation and went so far as to compose the first scene with librettist Burt Shevelove. A chance encounter with Billy Wilder at a cocktail party gave Sondheim the opportunity to introduce himself and ask the original film's co-screenwriter and director his opinion of the project (which was to star Jeanette MacDonald). "You can't write a musical about Sunset Boulevard," Wilder responded, "it has to be an opera. After all, it's about a dethroned queen." Sondheim immediately aborted his plans. A few years later, when he was invited by Hal Prince to write the score for a film remake starring Angela Lansbury as a fading musical comedian rather than a silent film star, Sondheim declined, citing his conversation with Wilder.[3]

When Lloyd Webber saw the film in the early 1970s, he was inspired to write what he pictured as the title song for a theatrical adaptation, fragments of which he instead incorporated into Gumshoe.[4] In 1976, after a conversation with Hal Prince, who had the theatrical rights to Sunset, Lloyd Webber wrote "an idea for the moment when Norma Desmond returns to Paramount Studios"; Lloyd Webber did no further work on the play until after 1989's Aspects of Love.[4] At that point, Lloyd Webber "felt it was the subject [he] had to compose next",[4] though by February 1990 he had announced plans to turn Really Useful Group private so he could "make movies rather than musicals."[5][6]

In 1991, Lloyd Webber asked Amy Powers, a lawyer from New York with hardly any professional lyric-writing experience, to write the lyrics for Sunset Boulevard.[7] Don Black was later brought in to work with Powers; the two wrote the version that was performed in 1991 at Lloyd Webber's Sydmonton Festival. This original version starred Ria Jones as Norma and Michael Ball as Joe Gillis,[8] but it was still in the experimental stage and not ready for potential producers. A revised version, written by Black and Christopher Hampton had a complete performance at the 1992 Sydmonton Festival, now with Patti LuPone playing Norma[9] and Kevin Anderson as Joe Gillis. This "met with great success".[7] Lloyd Webber borrowed several of the tunes from his 1986 mini-musical Cricket, written with Tim Rice, which had been performed at Windsor Castle and later at the 1986 Sydmonton Festival.[10]

Synopsis

Act I

The place: A mansion on Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, 5 a.m. A homicide has been reported. Joe Gillis sets the scene ("Prologue"), noting that "an old-time movie star is involved / Maybe the biggest star of all", and that, if you want to know the "real facts", "you've come to the right party."

Flashback to... Hollywood, 1949 - where a down-on-his-luck screenwriter, Joe Gillis, is trying to hustle up some work at Paramount Studios ("Let's Have Lunch"). His appointment with a producer goes poorly when the executive rejects both Joe's proposed script and a loan to bring his car payments up to date. Joe does, however, meet Betty Schaefer, a pretty, young script editor who suggests they collaborate to rework one of his earlier screenplays ("Every Movie's a Circus"). As they chat, car repossession agents spot Joe, who quickly escapes.

During the ensuing chase, Joe evades his pursuers by pulling in to the garage of a palatial but dilapidated mansion on Sunset Boulevard. Beckoned inside the house, Joe encounters Norma Desmond ("Surrender"), a star actress of the silent-film era. Taken aback, Joe comments, "You used to be in pictures; you used to be big," to which Norma retorts, "I am big – it's the pictures that got small!" ("With One Look")

The gloomy estate is inhabited only by Norma and Max von Mayerling, her loyal butler and chauffeur. Although decades past her prime and mostly forgotten by the public, Norma is convinced she is as beautiful and popular as ever. Max perpetuates this illusion by shielding her from the realities of life out of the limelight and by writing her letters purportedly from still-devoted fans. Norma informs Joe that she plans to make her comeback with Salome, a script she has written for Cecil B. DeMille to direct with her in the starring role as the teenage biblical temptress ("Salome"). Dubious but sensing opportunity, Joe accepts her offer to work on editing the script. Norma insists that Joe stay in her home while they collaborate on Salome ("The Greatest Star of All").

Joe immediately realizes the script is incoherent, but because Norma won't allow a major rewrite, the revision drags on for months. During this time Joe is virtually imprisoned within the house, but he does break away to fulfill his commitment to Betty. Their working relationship blossoms into a romance that has her reconsidering her engagement to Joe's best friend, Artie Green ("Girl Meets Boy").

Blind to Joe's opportunism, Norma lavishes him with gifts that include a wardrobe makeover and he becomes her kept man ("The Lady's Paying"). She declares her love for him and turns quite possessive ("The Perfect Year"); when he leaves her to attend Artie's New Year's Eve party ("This Time Next Year"), she is distraught and attempts suicide. As a conciliatory gesture, Joe reluctantly returns to work on Salome.

Act II

Joe is now living in luxury at Norma Desmond's mansion, for reasons he bluntly states are mercenary ("Sunset Boulevard"). A cryptic message from Paramount has Norma certain that DeMille is eager to discuss her script ("There's Been A Call"). She drops in on the set of his current film and is greeted warmly by former colleagues and the famed director himself, but he is non-committal about Salome ("As If We Never Said Goodbye"). Meanwhile, Max discovers the studio had called to ask about Norma's Isotta Fraschini, not her screenplay. However, a delusional Norma leaves the lot convinced she'll soon be back in front of the cameras and begins to prepare for the role ("Eternal Youth Is Worth a Little Suffering").

Increasingly paranoid, Norma deduces that Joe and Betty are more than just friends ("Too Much in Love to Care"). She calls Betty to reveal Joe's secret life at the mansion, but he overhears and grabs the phone to tell Betty to come see for herself. Realizing their affair is doomed, Joe brusquely tells her he enjoys being Norma's pet and that she should go back to Artie. Betty departs, confused and brokenhearted, and Joe tells Norma he is leaving her and returning to his hometown of Dayton, Ohio. He also bluntly informs her that Salome is an unfilmable script and her fans have long abandoned her. Furious and grief-stricken, Norma fatally shoots Joe three times as he storms out of the house.

Now completely insane, Norma mistakes the swarms of police and reporters who arrive for studio personnel. Imagining herself on the set of Salome, she slowly descends her grand staircase and utters "And now, Mr. DeMille, I am ready for my close-up."

Major characters

Characters and original cast

Character West End Los Angeles Broadway Toronto First U.S. Tour Australia First U.K. Tour First West End Revival Second West End Revival First Broadway Revival Third West End Revival/Second Broadway Revival
1993 1994 1995 1996 2001 2008 2016 2017 2023
Norma Desmond Patti LuPone Glenn Close Diahann Carroll Linda Balgord Debra Byrne Faith Brown Kathryn Evans Glenn Close Nicole Scherzinger
Joe Gillis Kevin Anderson Alan Campbell Rex Smith Ron Bohmer Hugh Jackman Earl Carpenter Ben Goddard Michael Xavier Tom Francis
Betty Schaefer Meredith Braun Judy Kuhn Alice Ripley Anita Louise Combe Lauren Kennedy Catherine Porter Ceri Ann Gregory Laura Pitt-Pulford Siobhan Dillon Grace Hodgett Young
Max von Mayerling Daniel Benzali George Hearn Walter Charles Ed Dixon Norbert Lamla Michael Bauer Dave Willetts Fred Johanson David Thaxton
Artie Green Gareth Snook Vincent Tumeo Christopher Shyer James Clow Tim Beveridge Jeremy Finch Tomm Coles Haydn Oakley Preston Truman Boyd Ahmed Hamad
Cecil B. DeMille Michael Bauer Alan Oppenheimer John Braden William Chapman Clive Hearne Vincent Pirillo Craig Pinder Julian Forsyth Paul Schoeffler Jon Tsouras

Notable replacements

West End (1993-97)
Broadway (1994-97)
UK Tour (2001-02)

Musical numbers

† Song added for Los Angeles production

^ - cut from the 2023 West End and 2024 Broadway productions

∞ Originally a reprise of "Let's Have Lunch"

Productions

Original London production

Sunset Boulevard at the Adelphi Theatre

The original West End production, directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Bob Avian, with costumes from Anthony Powell, opened on 12 July 1993 at the Adelphi Theatre. The cast featured Patti LuPone as Norma Desmond, Kevin Anderson as Joe Gillis, Meredith Braun as Betty Schaefer, and Daniel Benzali as Norma's ex-husband, Max.[13]

Billy Wilder and his wife Audrey were joined by Nancy Olson, who had played Betty Schaefer in the original film, at the opening night performance. Of it, Wilder observed, "The best thing they did was leave the script alone," and of Patti LuPone he exclaimed, "She's a star from the moment she walks on stage".[14]

Reviews were mixed, according to the Associated Press (AP) review summary. That summary quoted, for example, the review by Michael Kuchwara for the AP: "Some reviewers felt Lloyd Webber took the sting out of a cynical tale. 'Wilder's bitter brew has been diluted,' wrote AP Drama Critic Michael Kuchwara. He added: 'When LuPone is off stage, the show sags.'"[15] Frank Rich wrote "Much of the film's plot, dialogue and horror-movie mood are preserved, not to mention clips used to illustrate those sequences in which the faded silent-film star, Norma Desmond ...and her kept, young screenwriter, Joe Gillis, ... travel by car. The lyricist, Don Black ..., and the playwright, Christopher Hampton ..., smartly tailor their jokes to the original screenplay's style. At times, even Lloyd Webber gets into the Wilder swing. Both acts open with joltingly angry diatribes about Hollywood, part exposition-packed recitative and part song, in which the surprisingly dark, jazz-accented music, the most interesting I've yet encountered from this composer, meshes perfectly with the cynical lyrics. Anderson makes the sardonic Wilder voice an almost physical presence in Sunset Boulevard, but he is too often drowned out by both LuPone's Broadway belt and mechanical efforts of Lloyd Webber and his director, Trevor Nunn, to stamp the proven formulas of Phantom and Les Miz on even an intimate tale. At odd moments, the mammoth set advances like a glacier toward the audience or retreats, or, most dramatically, rises partly up into the flies, actors in tow."[13]

The show closed for three weeks, re-opening on 19 April 1994, revamped to follow the Los Angeles production, with a second official "opening". The revamped musical had a new song, "Every Movie's a Circus", a new set, and new stars, Betty Buckley and John Barrowman. Anita Louise Combe took over the role of Betty Schaeffer and, as a result of her performance, was invited to play the role in the original Canadian Premiere production in Toronto the following year. [16] Michael Bauer, who had originally played DeMille, replaced Benzali as Max, a role he played until the end of the London run (and subsequently on the UK tour and in the BBC concert). Buckley and the production garnered rave reviews. David Lister of The Independent, for example wrote: "The show looked an improvement on the one that got decidedly mixed reviews last summer."[16]

Betty Buckley went on to replace Glenn Close as Norma in the second year of the Broadway production. Elaine Paige, who had filled in when Buckley was ill in 1994, took over the part in the West End in May 1995[17] before joining the Broadway production for the end of its run between 1996 and 1997. Petula Clark filled in for Paige during her holiday in September/October 1995, before taking over the role in January 1996[18] when Paige departed for the United States. The last actress to play Norma in London was Rita Moreno, who filled in for a vacationing Clark in September and October 1996. John Barrowman played Joe until 1995, when he was replaced by Alexander Hanson. Graham Bickley played the role for the final year of the London run.

The show closed on 5 April 1997 after 1,530 performances.[19]

Los Angeles production

Glenn Close in costume for Sunset Boulevard

The American premiere was at the Shubert Theatre in Century City, Los Angeles, California, on 9 December 1993, with Close as Norma and Alan Campbell as Joe. Featured were George Hearn as Max and Judy Kuhn as Betty. Lloyd Webber had reworked both the book and score, tightening the production, better organising the orchestrations, and adding the song "Every Movie's a Circus".[20] This new production was better received by the critics and was an instant success, running for 369 performances. The Los Angeles production also recorded a new cast album that is well regarded. It is also the only unabridged cast recording of the show, since the original London recording was trimmed by over thirty minutes.

A controversy arose with this production after Faye Dunaway was hired to replace Glenn Close. Dunaway went into rehearsals with Rex Smith as Joe and Jon Cypher as Max. Tickets went on sale for Dunaway's engagement but shortly after rehearsals started the producers announced that Dunaway was unable to sing the role to their standards and the production would shut down when Close left.[21] Dunaway "claims that when advance sales slumped, Sir Andrew decided to save money by sending the LA cast of Sunset Boulevard - based on the story of a clapped-out Hollywood actress - to Broadway, where it is due to open in November. "[22] However, the Los Angeles Times reported that "The cancellation came despite advance ticket sales for the Los Angeles production 'way in excess of $4 million,' said Peter Brown, a spokesman for Lloyd Webber."[21]

Dunaway filed a lawsuit claiming her reputation had been damaged by the producer's claims. Dunaway's lawsuit was settled and the producers paid her a settlement but no other terms of the agreement have ever been disclosed.[23]

Original Broadway production

The musical opened on Broadway at the Minskoff Theatre on 17 November 1994 with Close, Campbell, and Hearn recreating their roles from the Los Angeles production and Alice Ripley joining the cast as Betty. Also in the cast were Alan Oppenheimer as Cecil B. DeMille and Vincent Tumeo making his Broadway debut as Artie Green. The production opened with the highest advance in the history of Broadway ticket sales at that time.[24][25] It closed on March 22, 1997, after playing 977 performances.[26] Billy Wilder was in attendance on opening night and was coaxed onstage by Close for the curtain call.[14] In a season with only one other musical nominated for Best Musical, the production won several Tony Awards; Glenn Close, with only one other nominee as Best Actress in a musical, won the Tony for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.

The New York Times theatre critic Vincent Canby commented about the Tony Awards for this year: "Awards don't really tell you much when the competition is feeble or simply non-existent, as was the case the year that Sunset Boulevard won its Tony. Such prizes are for use in advertising and promotion and to impress the folks back home."[27]

Patti LuPone, who initially had been promised the Broadway run, sued Lloyd Webber and received a settlement reported to be $1 million. Frank Rich, in his book The Hot Seat,[28] noted that these lawsuits contributed to Sunset Boulevard setting the record for the most money lost by a theatrical endeavour in the history of the United States. According to The New York Times, operating costs soared far beyond the budget, and the "Broadway production has earned back, at best, 80% of the initial $13 million".[29] For example, during the week of 2 July 1995, "it cost $731,304 to run Sunset Boulevard, including... advertising fees of $138,352 (which had been budgeted at $40,000 a week)."[29] The road companies also generated large financial losses. Rich puts the final figure near or above US$20 million lost, making the show what he termed a "flop-hit", as it ran more than two years. The musical sold over a million tickets on Broadway.[30]

Touring productions

The first national US tour in 1996 starring Linda Balgord[31] ended in early 1997 after only a handful of venues due to exorbitant costs involved in transporting the set.[32] Lloyd Webber called in director Susan H. Schulman to design a scaled-down production, with Petula Clark once again in the lead opposite Lewis Cleale as Joe. This production featured Anthony Powell's Tony Award nominated costumes, a slightly modified libretto by Schulman and Don Black and a new, more tour-friendly set by Derek McLane.[33] The revised production, opening in Pittsburgh about a year after the closing of the original tour in Chicago, went on the road for almost two years, though it avoided the cities covered by the previous tour.

In August 2001, a UK tour commenced in Plymouth starring Faith Brown as Norma, opposite Earl Carpenter as Joe, and Michael Bauer reprising his West End performance as Max. The production had a completely new set, much simpler than the original London set, although the overall production remained closer to the original staging than the revamped US national tour. Carpenter left midway through the tour and was replaced by Jeremy Finch, who had previously understudied the role. The tour finished in late 2002 in Manchester and met with both excellent reviews and respectable ticket sales.

Ria Jones, who originated the role of Norma Desmond in the 1991 Sydmonton Workshop and understudied Glenn Close in the 2016 West End revival, led a new production opening at Leicester's Curve Theatre on 16 September 2017 for a two-week run before embarking on a national tour around the United Kingdom.[34] Starring opposite Jones as Norma was Danny Mac as Joe Gillis. The tour, directed by Curve artistic by Nikolai Foster, transferred the musical into a Hollywood sound stage setting, designed by Colin Richmond, with acclaimed use of vintage archive film and projections designed by Douglas O'Connell. [35]

London revivals

An eight-week engagement of a minimalist production, in which the actors used musical instruments, enjoyed a good run at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury over the summer of 2008. Directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood, the cast featured Kathryn Evans as Norma and Ben Goddard as Joe. A West End transfer of the Watermill production began on 4 December 2008 prior to an official opening 15 December at the Comedy Theatre, with Evans and Goddard reprising their roles, and Dave Willetts joining the cast as Max.[36] The production received rave reviews and extended its run to September 2009. However, the production closed just after initially planned on 30 May 2009.[37] It had originally been booking until 19 September 2009. There were plans for a UK Tour and also talks of bringing the show to Broadway[38]

Opening on 4 April 2016 English National Opera (ENO) presented a five-week 'semi-staged' run at the London Coliseum. Glenn Close reprised her role as Norma, making her West End debut, along with Michael Xavier as Joe, Siobhan Dillon as Betty and Fred Johanson as Max.[39] Michael Linnit and Michael Grade for Gate Ventures PLC worked with ENO to present the show; Johnny Hon was the executive producer.[40] It was announced on 25 October 2016 that the production will transfer to Broadway at the Palace Theatre in a limited engagement.[41]

2017 Broadway revival

2017 revival at the Palace Theatre

Glenn Close reprised her performance as Norma Desmond in a revival on Broadway. Featuring a 40-piece onstage orchestra and a relatively minimalist set, the production began performances at the Palace Theatre on 2 February 2017 before opening officially on 9 February for a limited run, with tickets on sale through 25 June 2017.[41][42] The cast featured Michael Xavier as Joe Gillis, Siobhan Dillon as Betty Schaefer, and Fred Johanson as Max von Mayerling, all reprising their roles from the 2016 London ENO production. The 2017 Broadway revival was directed by Lonny Price.[43][44]

2023 London revival & 2024 Broadway transfer

A West End revival and reimagining of the piece starring Nicole Scherzinger as Norma opened at the Savoy Theatre from September 2023 for a 16-week limited run. It was directed by Jamie Lloyd and produced by Lloyd Webber Harrison Musicals.[45] Rachel Tucker guest starred as Norma on October 12, 2023, and played Monday evenings beginning October 16.[46] On 14 August 2023, complete casting was announced with Tom Francis, David Thaxton, and Grace Hodgett Young, making her professional debut, starring as Joe, Max, and Betty, respectively.[47] It featured many changes to the score including two songs being cut and substantial lyrical rewrites. "Let's Have Lunch" became "Let's Do Lunch" and the "Exit Music" was more substantively incorporated into the show. The revival won seven WhatsOnStage Awards, including Best Musical Revival & Best Actress in a Musical for Scherzinger and received a leading 11 Laurence Olivier Award nominations, including Best Musical Revival and acting nominations for Scherzinger, Thaxton, Francis & Hodgett Young.

In January 2024, it was announced that the revival would transfer to Broadway in 2024 with Scherzinger set to reprise her performance as Norma. Her London co-stars Francis, Thaxton, and Young are also set to reprise their performances as Joe, Max, and Betty respectively.[48] The show is expected to begin previews on September 28 with an opening night planned for October 20 at the St. James Theatre.[49]

International productions

The original Canadian production opened in Toronto on October 15, 1995, with Diahann Carroll in the lead role. Her performance was praised by critics. It also starred Rex Smith as Joe, Walter Charles as Max and Anita Louise Combe, who had played Betty in the London production, repeating in this role. Toronto performances ended in August 1996, with the production later moving to Vancouver where it ran from November 1996 to March 1997. A highlights recording of this production was released on CD.

A German production of the musical opened 7 December 1995 at the newly built Rhein-Main Theater in Niedernhausen near Wiesbaden, starring Helen Schneider and Sue Mathys (matinees) as Norma and Uwe Kröger as Joe. A cast recording (with Schneider and Kröger) was released in 1996. The role of Norma was later played by Daniela Ziegler and Christina Grimandi, with Schneider and, for the last few months, Sue Mathys both returning to play the lead. The production closed in May 1998.

In October 1996, the original Australian production of the musical opened at Melbourne's newly restored Regent Theatre. The cast included Debra Byrne as Norma, Hugh Jackman as Joe, and Catherine Porter as Betty.[50] Maria Mercedes starred as the alternate Norma, performing two of the eight shows each week.[51] Amanda Harrison took over the role of Betty for the final months of the show's run. The production ran until 14 June 1997.[52]

A year-long Dutch tour commenced in the Netherlands on 10 October 2008, with Simone Kleinsma and Pia Douwes alternating as Norma and Antonie Kamerling as Joe, using the same modified libretto that was first used in the 2001 UK tour. Kleinsma went on to win the Best Actress Award for the role in the 2009 Dutch Musical Awards and also Best Actress for the Flemish Musical Prizes. An official cast album was released, with Kleinsma appearing on the main album and with a four track bonus CD of Pia Douwes singing Norma's main arias.

The Swedish premiere took place at the Värmlandsoperan in September 2009, to mostly positive reviews. The role of Norma was played by Maria Lundqvist. A second much more elaborate production opened in October 2010, at the Gothenburg Opera House, with Gunilla Backman (who previously understudied the role of Betty in the original German production) starring as Norma.

A South African production starring Angela Kilian[53] as Norma and Jonathan Roxmouth[54] as Joe, was shown at the Pieter Toerien Theatre at Montecasino in Johannesburg from late August 2013 to mid October 2013 and at Theatre on the Bay in Cape Town from late October 2013 until early January 2014.

The Czech production with Hana Fialová and Katarína Hasprová in the role of Norma had its premiere in National Moravian-Silesian Theatre in Ostrava. The premiere took place on 19 February 2015.[55] The show closed in March 2017.[56]

Another German production, starring Katharina Scherer as Norma, Philippe J. Kayser as Joe, Antonia Crames as Betty, and Stephan Vanecek as Max, opened to sold-out seats on 15 September 2017 and had its fourteenth and final performance on 8 October 2017 at the Tuchfabrik in Trier.[57]

The Spanish premiere production opened 27 December 2017 at the Auditorio de Tenerife, directed by Jaime Azpilicueta and starring Paloma San Basilio as Norma Desmond, Gerónimo Rauch as Joe Gillis, Inma Mira as Betty Schaefer, and Gonzalo Montes as Max von Mayerling.[58]

A Danish production by Den Jyske Opera opened 12 August 2022 at Musikhuset Aarhus, directed by Philipp Kochheim and starring Tammi Øst as Norma, Randy Diamond as Joe, Katharina Maria Abt as Betty, and Martin Loft as Max.[59] The production received mixed reviews from critics who praised the performances of Øst and the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra while criticising the direction and the casting of Diamond as Joe due to his advanced age.[60][61][62][63]

Sarah Brightman is set to star as Norma Desmond in a new production of Sunset Boulevard that will premiere in Melbourne in May 2024 at the Princess Theatre followed by an engagement at the Sydney Opera House in August. This will be Brightman's first theatrical role in more than three decades.[64]

Other productions

In 2004, the first regional production of Sunset Boulevard was staged in the round at the Marriott Theatre in Chicago for a limited period and starred Paula Scrofano as Norma. It was the first and only regional production to be licensed by the Really Useful Group (RUG) for the next six years. However, in the spring of 2010, the leasing rights were finally released to regional companies and numerous productions have been staged around the United States.

The Ogunquit Playhouse production ran from 28 July through 14 August 2010 and starred Stefanie Powers as Norma and Todd Gearhart as Joe. This was the first fully staged production in the U.S. in nearly a decade. The Ogunquit production was directed by Shaun Kerrison with choreography by Tom Kosis, featured costumes by Anthony Powell and an all new set designed exclusively for Ogunquit by Todd Ivins.[65]

The Arvada Center production ran from 14 September to 10 October 2010, in Denver, Colorado, the same city that launched the ill-fated first US tour in 1996. The show starred Ann Crumb as Norma and Kevin Earley as Joe. The production was directed by Rod A. Landsberry.[66]

The Kennedy Center production ran from February 1-8, 2023 in Washington, D.C., with Stephanie J. Block starring as Norma, Derek Klena as Joe, Nathan Gunn as Max and Auli'i Cravalho as Betty. The show ran as a limited engagement as part of the Kennedy Center's Broadway Center Stage series.[67]

Concert productions

In April 2004, Petula Clark reprised her role as Norma opposite Michael Ball as Joe in a concert production of the show that ran for two nights at the Cork Opera House in Ireland, which was later broadcast on BBC Radio 2. The cast also included Michael Bauer (Max), Emma Williams (Betty), Michael Xavier (Artie) and the BBC Concert Orchestra was conducted by Martin Yates.

Another two-day concert engagement took place in 2004 in Sydney by the Production Company; Judi Connelli starred as Norma, Michael Cormick played Joe and Anthony Warlow was Max. The Production Company staged a slightly more elaborate version of the concert for a week in Melbourne during 2005. Connelli again starred as Norma, and David Campbell took the role of Joe. The State Theatre was sold out for every performance.

A concert production of Sunset Boulevard was performed Off West End at the Alexandra Palace in June 2021. Ramin Karimloo starred as Joe Gillis, with Mazz Murray as Norma Desmond, Zizi Strallen as Betty Schaeffer, and Jeremy Secomb as Max.[68] The production transferred to the Royal Albert Hall in London, England on December 3, 2021. Produced by Alpha, the concert was a fully staged production with direction by Jordan Murphy, choreography by Joanna Goodwin, and conducted by Alex Parker. Karimloo, Murray, Strallen, and Secomb reprised their performances.[69]

Film adaptation

Paramount Pictures and the Relevant Picture Company announced in 2005 that they were developing a film adaptation of the musical.[70] In 2007, The Daily Telegraph reported that actresses considered for the role of Norma Desmond included Close, Paige, Meryl Streep, Liza Minnelli, and Barbra Streisand.[71] In a 2008 interview, Andrew Lloyd Webber said that there were no plans for a film adaptation to be made in the near future, but remained hopeful that one would be made at some point.[72] In 2011, Lloyd Webber indicated that he would have wanted Madonna to star in the film.[73]

In a 2013 interview with Elaine Paige during her BBC Radio 2 show Elaine Paige on Sunday, Lloyd Webber was asked about the progress of the film, to which he replied:

I would love a film to be made of Sunset, of course, but unfortunately the rights are owned by Paramount who own the original movie and, so far, talks with them have never led to anything. And it's sad for me because I think in many ways Sunset is, I think, the most complete musical I have written, I mean in the sense that the book and the music and everything come together I think in a way that perhaps even some of the others, they don't. Anyway that's my sadness at the moment and maybe, one day, the whole thing will get brokered. I'm doing something else with Paramount because after I've done this I'm producing School of Rock on stage, and that's a Paramount picture, so maybe if they like what I do with that they'll let me do Sunset.[74]

In February 2019, it was announced that Rob Ashford had signed on to direct the film, with Close reprising her role as Norma Desmond and Tom MacRae penning the script, with production slated to begin on October of that year, but was then delayed to the fall of 2020.[75] In an October 2020 interview, Close, along with her confirmation of co-producing the film alongside Lloyd Webber, said that she hoped filming would commence in early 2021, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for the delay.[76] In May 2021, Close stated in an interview that production was "very, very close" to beginning and that they were "ready to go", while also adding that Lloyd Webber was still working on new music for the film.[77] However, in October 2021, Lloyd Webber announced that production had been stalled, stating, "I wish I could say it's going into production tomorrow morning, but it's not. Paramount has not wanted to go ahead with it. It's not for want of trying. Glenn Close has been absolutely doggedly trying to get it made."[78] On May 2, 2022, at the 2022 Met Gala, Close revealed that "We're getting closer, believe it or not. We're getting closer," without disclosing any additional information.[79]

Awards and nominations

Original London production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1994 Laurence Olivier Awards[80] Best New Musical Nominated
Best Actress in a Musical Patti LuPone Nominated
1995 Betty Buckley Nominated
1996 Elaine Paige Nominated

Original Broadway production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1995 Tony Awards Best Musical Won
Best Original Score Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Black and Christopher Hampton Won
Best Book of a Musical Don Black and Christopher Hampton Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Alan Campbell Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Glenn Close Won
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical George Hearn Won
Best Direction of a Musical Trevor Nunn Nominated
Best Choreography Bob Avian Nominated
Best Scenic Design John Napier Won
Best Costume Design Anthony Powell Nominated
Best Lighting Design Andrew Bridge Won
Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Actress in a Musical Glenn Close Won

2008 London revival

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2009 Laurence Olivier Awards[81] Best Actress in a Musical Kathryn Evans Nominated
Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical Dave Willetts Nominated

2016 London revival

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2016 Evening Standard Theatre Awards[82][83] Best Musical Nominated
Best Musical Performance Glenn Close Won
2017 Laurence Olivier Awards[84] Best Musical Revival Nominated
Best Actress in a Musical Glenn Close Nominated

2017 Broadway revival

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2017 Drama Desk Awards Best Lighting Design Mark Henderson Nominated
Drama League Awards Outstanding Revival of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Musical Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Awards Outstanding Revival of a Musical Nominated

2023 Kennedy Center production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2024 Helen Hayes Awards Outstanding Lead Performer in a Musical Stephanie J. Block Pending
Outstanding Director of a Musical Sammi Cannold Pending

2023 London revival

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2023 Evening Standard Theatre Awards[85] Best Musical Performance Nicole Scherzinger Won
Best Director Jamie Lloyd Won
2024 Whatsonstage Awards[86] Best Musical Revival Nominated
Best Performer in a Musical Nicole Scherzinger Won
Best Direction Jamie Lloyd Won
Best Professional Debut Grace Hodgett Young Won
Best Choreography Fabian Aloise Nominated
Best Musical Direction/Supervision Alan Williams Won
Best Sound Design Adam Fisher Won
Best Video Design Nathan Amzi and Joe Ransom Won
Best Lighting Design Jack Knowles Won
Laurence Olivier Awards[87] Best Musical Revival Won
Best Actress in a Musical Nicole Scherzinger Won
Best Actor in a Musical Tom Francis Won
Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical Grace Hodgett Young Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical David Thaxton Nominated
Best Director Jamie Lloyd Won
Best Choreography Fabian Aloise Nominated
Best Set Design Soutra Gilmour (Set Design), Nathan Amzi & Joe Ransom (Video Design) Nominated
Best Lighting Design Jack Knowles Won
Best Sound Design Adam Fisher Won
Outstanding Musical Contribution Alan Williams (Musical Supervision & Musical Direction) Won

Notes

  1. ^ Based on liner notes to Boulevard! CD release by Richard Stapley, Tim J. Hutton, and Steven M. Warner
  2. ^ The Bad and the Beautiful: Hollywood in the Fifties by Sam Kashner and Jennifer MacNair, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2002, p. 346, ISBN 0-393-04321-5
  3. ^ On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder by Ed Sikov, Hyperion, New York, New York, 1998, pp. 467–468, ISBN 0-7868-6194-0
  4. ^ a b c '...Inspired by Sunset Boulevard' Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine from Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group website
  5. ^ Lloyd Webber in Accord For Buyback of Company, a February 1990 article from The New York Times
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References

External links

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