The new tour of Sunset Boulevard will have the same script, the same score, and the same costumes as the Broadway production. It will also have former London Norma Desmond, Petula Clark. What is won't have is the same production design -- specifically that gargantuan set.
"The physical production is obviously going to be modified," said Scott Zeiger, president of PACE Theatrical Group, which is producing the tour with Columbia Artists. "During the first tour, it was physically too heavy." 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, designed by John Napier, 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 two-and-one-half 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."
The new design team, to be selected by director Susan H. Schulman's (Broadway The Sound of Music), should be announced in six-week's time, said Zeiger. The 60-week tour will begin 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.
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