Busy designer Derek McLane has been selected to rethink the settings for the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Sunset Boulevard, which will embark on a new, streamlined tour this December. The tour's producers hope to bring down costs by modifying the enormous John Napier set which hampered Sunset's first road company.
"During the first tour, it was physically too heavy," said Scott Zeiger (May 1), president of PACE Theatrical Group, which is producing the tour with Columbia Artists. The musical's initial U.S. tour began a projected six year journey on July 10, 1996 but came to an abrupt end less than one year later.
Zeiger told Playbill On-Line that Sunset's original road company actually did remarkably well, when compared to the box-office income of comparable touring shows, but was sunk by load-in costs. Fully $1 million was spent every time the original set was ferried from one city to the next. Such expense made it imperative the show remain at each tour stop for a minimum of five weeks in order to make up the cost.
"In a mid-sized market like Tampa, the show grossed $2.5 million over the run," explained Zeiger. "But spread out over five weeks, when the break even point is $500,000, that's terrible." The new set will be easily transported and enable the tour to make short, week-long stops. Under those circumstances, said Zeiger, "even if we have a quarter of the figures [of the last tour], and do a quarter of the run, that would be fantastic."
McLane has emerged as a hot designer over the past few years, working consistently at the Roundabout Theatre Company, the Public Theatre and Lincoln Center. Director David Warren has used McLane for nearly all of his recent productions, including Broadway's Holiday and Summer and Smoke. McLane's other credits include The Monogamist, subUrbia, Hello Again, Troilus and Cressida, and Present Laughter. In 1997, he won an Obie Award for sustained excellence. The rest of the design team is already in place. Tony Meola has been hired to do sound, while Peter Kaczorowski will design the lighting.
Kathleen Marshall, artistic director of NY's acclaimed "Encores!" series, has been signed as choreographer on the new production, which stars Petula Clark. Marshall will join her frequent collaborator, director Susan H. Schulman, on the project. The two artists have worked together on such musicals as Violet at Playwrights Horizons and the "Encores!" concert presentation of Rodgers and Hart's The Boys from Syracuse.
The 60-week tour is scheduled to launch Dec. 1 at the Benedum Performing Arts Center in Pittsburgh. A complete list of tour dates, as it now stands, follows:
Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 1998: Pittsburgh, PA
Dec. 7-13: Richmond, VA
Dec. 14-20: Columbus, OH
Dec. 21-27: Houston, TX
Dec. 28, 1998-Jan. 3, 1999: Louisville, KY
Jan. 4-10: Kansas City, KS
Jan. 11-17: Memphis, TN
Jan. 18-31: Philadelphia, PA
Feb. 1-7: Newark, NJ
Feb. 8-24: Cleveland, OH
Feb. 25-28: Schenectady, NY
Mar. 1-21: Detroit, MI
Mar. 22-28 : Providence, RI; Rochester, NY
Mar. 29-Apr. 4: Baltimore, MD
Apr. 5-11: East Lansing, MI
Apr. 12-18: Hershey, PA
Apr. 19-May 2: New Haven, CT
May 3-9: New Orleans, LA
May 10-16: Orlando, FL
Additional cities are to be added.
Trevor Nunn directed both the original London and Broadway productions. The musical, based on the 1950 Billy Wilder film of the same name, traces the intertwined fates of a faded silent film actress and a dissipated screenwriter.
-- By Robert Simonson