Today marks 29 years of Sunset Boulevard, premiering in London’s West End at the Adelphi Theatre on 12th July 1993. Join us as we look back at the musical phenomenon, including the show’s background, and revisit the wonderful music from the show!
Sunset Boulevard is a haunting and magnificent tale of faded glory and unfulfilled ambition. Faded 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 screenwriter Joe Gillis in dramatic circumstances, their subsequent passionate and volatile relationship leads to an unforeseen and tragic conclusion.
The iconic central character in the musical, Norma Desmond, has been portrayed by various powerhouse female performers, including Patti LuPone, Glenn Close, Elaine Paige, Diahann Carroll, Kathryn Evans and many more.
Sunset Boulevard is based on the 1950 American black comedy film noir, which was written and directed by Billy Wilder. After Andrew saw the film in the early 1970s, he became inspired to write a title song for a theatrical adaptation – fragments of which were eventually incorporated into the film Gumshoe.
Later on in 1976, Andrew wrote “an idea for the moment when Norma Desmond returns to Paramount Studios”, but the project didn’t receive any more work until after Aspects of Love in 1989. In 1991, Andrew then collaborated with Amy Powers, a lawyer from New York who had no prior experience in lyric-writing to craft lyrics for Sunset. After some work and revisions, Sunset Boulevard eventually gave its first performance at the 1992 Sydmonton Festival, and was written by Don Black and directed by Christopher Hampton. This was then transferred to the West End stage in 1993, directed by Trevor Nunn.
Speaking on the process of creating Sunset Boulevard’s incomparable songs, Andrew said:
“I began composing the score shortly after the opening of Aspects of Love in London in 1989. I tried various versions of the title song, but came back to the original idea I had in the early 70s, albeit in a very different style and form. I stayed with my late 70s draft of the moment where Norma returns to Paramount, “As If We Never Said Goodbye”. Otherwise mostly everything has been written since 1989.” – Andrew Lloyd Webber
To experience the magic of Sunset Boulevard, join us in enjoying the Original Broadway Cast Recording from 1994 here: