Sunset Boulevard

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber  
Book & lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton
Based on the 1950 Billy Wilder film ‘Sunset Boulevard

From the Really Useful Company website, 2009:
Sunset Boulevard weaves a magnificent tale of faded glory and unfulfilled ambition. Silent movie star Norma Desmond longs for a return to the big screen, having been discarded by tinsel town with the advent of “talkies.” Her glamour has faded in all but her mind. When she meets struggling Hollywood screen-writer Joe Gillis in dramatic circumstances, their subsequent passionate and volatile relationship leads to an unforeseen and tragic conclusion.

Related Equipment:

LD90 (1993 - ?)
Lightpalette 90 (1989 - 1996)
Mini Artisan (1989)
J-Type (1992)


LSI: Sunset Boulevard (August 1993)
[1.09Mb PDF]
From Lighting & Sound International

Journal Entries

Strand Lights Sunset Boulevard (1994)

Original London Production

(Adelphi Theatre – July 12 1993 – April 5 1997. The production closed for 3 weeks and reopened on April 19 1994 after being revised in line with the Broadway production. The song ‘Every Movie’s a Circus’ was added, and the set was changed.)
Directed by Trevor Nunn
Choreography by Bob Avian
Set design by John Napier
Lighting design by Andrew Bridge
Sound design by Martin Levan

Starring Glenn Close (1993),  Betty Buckley (1995)

The massive mansion set was lowered onto stage from the flies. Under the set was a full lighting rig for the sections of the show where the mansion was out of view. It was supported by 4 corner lifts. 

The ‘On the Road’ sequence was projected on 35mm film onto a screen downstage, mounted on a structure that contained a number of mechanical effects (spinning tyres, a speedometer) that synchronised to a timecode provided by the movie projector.

A lack of space in the wings meant the prop car that drove on from stage right had to be hung vertically when off stage. It was lowered to the deck and manhandled into position by stage crew. When the front of the car appeared on stage, the rear wheels were still off the deck. As it drove on, the car finally reached stage level. The cast that sat in the car got into it off stage when it was still slightly in the air.

Scenic Automation
Hydraulic System designed by Mike Barnett. Vickers Systems supplied hydraulic control components. 
John Hastie and Simon Needle of Electrolite supplied the computer control system. Hastie went on to found Stage Technologies a year later. 

Los Angeles

December 9, 1993 – June 26, 1994
Shubert Theatre in Century City

Starring Glenn Close (Norma Desmond), Alan Campbell (Joe Gillis), Judy Kuhn (Betty Schaefer) and George Hearn (Max von Mayerling). 

The production closed when Glenn Close ended her run, before Faye Dunaway was able to take to the stage, due to box office sales not meeting the weekly running costs of the show. [Article from the LA Times]

The show received its American premiere on 9th December 1993 at the Shubert Theatre in Los Angeles. The LA production starred Glenn Close(Norma Desmond), Alan Campbell (Joe Gillis), Judy Kuhn (Betty Schaefer) and George Hearn (Max von Mayerling), with Close, Campbell and Hearn going on to recreate their roles for the show’s 1994 Broadway opening at the Minskoff Theatre on 17th November 1994 – they were also joined by Alice Ripleyas Betty Schaefer. That production opened with the highest advance in Broadway history at the time ($37.5 million in ticket sales).

‘Omnibus’ documentary about the Los Angeles production (broadcast on BBC One Tuesday 21 December 1993)


November 17, 1994 – March 22, 1997
Minskoff Theatre

Starring Glenn Close (Norma Desmond), Alan Campbell (Joe Gillis), Alice Ripley (Betty Schaefer) and George Hearn (Max von Mayerling), all transferred from the Los Angeles production except Alice Ripley. 


15th October 1995  – ?
Ford Center for the Performing Arts/Apotex Theater
Starring Diahann Carroll (Norma), Rex Smith (Joe) and Walter Charles (Max)

US National Tour

June 1996 – ?

Starring Linda Balgord


A US Tour opened in Pittsburgh in December 1998 and starred Petula Clark in the lead role, and a UK Tour starring Faith Brown as Norma Desmond and Earl Carpenter as Joe Gillis opened in 2001.

Revival London Production

Opened at the Watermill Theatre 09 July 2008 and ran to 30 August 2008.
Previews at the Comedy Theatre began on 4 December 2008, with an opening on 15 December 2008.
The production closed on 30th May 2009.
Directed & choreographed by Craig Revel-Horwood.
After the massive scale of the original London production, this slimmed-down version is much more intimate and allows the drama of the story to be told.

Original Movie Trailer (1950)

More information