Kathleen Marshall, artistic director of NY's acclaimed "Encores!" series, has been signed as choreographer on the new, streamlined tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard starring Petula Clark.
She 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 on Dec. 1, 1998, at the Benedum Performing Arts Center in Pittsburgh. The show will then travel to Richmond, Va. (Dec. 7-12), Columbus (Dec. 14-19), and Houston (Dec. 21-26). Future cities and dates are yet to be announced.
Three-fourths of the design team is also in place. Tony Meola has been hired to do sound, while Peter Kaczorowski will design the lighting. Kaczorowski is another Schulman mainstay, having lit Violet and Syracuse, as well as the Broadway productions of Three Sisters and Steel Pier. Meola's credits include Steel Pier, Juan Darien and The Last Night of Ballyhoo. The tour will use the costumes employed in the Broadway production of Sunset.
The all-important job of set designer is yet to be assigned. The tour hopes to bring down the tour's cost 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 that 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."
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