The world's last remaining Sunset Boulevard production will finally finish it's more than two-and-a-half-year run on June 30, 1998 in Frankfurt-Niedernhausen, Germany.
When in spring 1997, Sunset Boulevard closed in New York, London and Australia, Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Really Useful Group (RUG) also decided to put an end to the German language production. In a dramatic last-minute-rescue-operation (the ticket sales had already come to a standstill) Peter Buck, a German building contractor, finally succeeded in purchasing the Sunset Boulevard rights for Germany from the RUG. First of all, Buck dismissed the mainly British artistic and administrative management team in Niedernhausen and started to reduce the excessive operational costs. But after 10 months Buck had to figure out that with an average attendance of 60 percent even this "lean" production cannot survive. He has decided to close Sunset Boulevard on June 30, 1998. Until then, nearly one million spectators have seen the show in Niedernhausen. Current advertisements end with the melancholy tagline "Sometimes destiny is stronger than the effort".
The German Sunset Boulevard production opened Dec. 8, 1996 in Niedernhausen, a small town close to Frankfurt, Germany's banking capital and the country's largest airport. The lavish production was identical to the originals on Broadway and in the West End. Starring as Norma Desmond in Niedernhausen were US jazz singer Helen Schneider, German TV-celebrity Daniela Ziegler and Switzerland's leading musical star Sue Mathys.
As in Germany nearly all big theatres are operated by municipalities or the state, and have daily repertory performances for about ten months a year, commercially operated musicals have to construct new theatre buildings for their open-end productions. Since 1986 (when musicals started to boom in Germany with the still running Cats production in Hamburg) there have been new theatres built in Bochum (for Starlight Express), Hamburg (Phantom of the Opera and Buddy), Stuttgart (Miss Saigon and Beauty and The Beast), Duisburg (Les Miserables), Dusseldorf (Grease), Cologne (Gaudi), Berlin (Space Dream) and Essen (Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat). Currently under construction are new projects in Bremen (opening in Oct. 1998 with Jekyll & Hyde), Berlin (opening early 1999 with probably Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame or Lion King) and Oberhausen (opening in Feb. 1999 with Tabaluga & Lilli, a German musical).
In Niedernhausen, the Rhein-Main Theater (1,500 seats) was constructed especially for the German Sunset Boulevard production. As the theatre is located in the countryside without any urban surrounding it is connected directly to the Micador hotel and has also its own railway station. Sunset Boulevard with Sue Mathys (Norma Desmond) and Yngve Gasoy Romdal (Joe Gillis) is playing until June 30, 1998 (Tue. to Sun. at 7:45, Sat. and Sun. matinees at 2:45) at the Rhein-Main Theater in Niedernhausen (between Frankfurt and Wiesbaden, Germany). For tickets call (+49-6127) 9034-251. --By Gerhard Knopf
Editor of musicals - das musicalmagazin, magazine published in Munich, Germany