Casting Complete for ENO's Sunset Boulevard

News   Casting Complete for ENO's Sunset Boulevard
Glenn Close will reprise her Tony-winning role of Norma Desmond.
Michael Xavier, Glenn Close, Lonny Price, Siobhan Dillon and Fred Johanson
Michael Xavier, Glenn Close, Lonny Price, Siobhan Dillon and Fred Johanson Richard Hubert Smith

Complete casting has been announced for the English National Opera's semi-staged production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard, which will begin performances April 1 prior to an official opening April 4.

Directed by Lonny Price, the production will continue through May 7.

Glenn Close, as previously reported, is to reprise the role of Norma Desmond that won her a Tony Award 20 years ago. She will be joined by West End leading man Michael Xavier as Joe Gillis, with Swedish Fred Johanson as Max Von Mayerling (a role he has previously played for Gothenburg Opera) and Siobhan Dillon as Betty Shaefer.

They will be joined by Anna Woodside as Hedda Hopper and Emily Bull as Hedy Lamarr with Julian Forsyth as Cecil B. DeMille, Mark Goldthorp as Sheldrake, Fenton Gray as Manfred, Haydn Oakley as Artie Green and James Paterson as Jonesy.

Further company members include Carly Anderson, Michelle Bishop, Jacob Chapman, Nadeem Crowe, Cornelia Farnsworth, Ria Jones, Katie Kerr, Aaron Lee Lambert, Matthew McKenna, Jo Morris, Tanya Robb, Ashley Robinson, Vicki Lee Taylor, Gary Tushaw, Adam Vaughan and Stuart Winter.

Sunset Boulevard will be the second production in the partnership between English National Opera (ENO) and the GradeLinnit Company. With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, Sunset Boulevard is produced by arrangement with The Really Useful Group Ltd. and is based on the original Paramount film by Billy Wilder.

The full ENO orchestra will appear onstage alongside the cast. Orchestrations are by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber with choreography by Stephen Mear, set designs by James Noone, costume designs by Tracy Christensen, Close’s costume designs by Anthony Powell, sound by Mick Potter and lighting by Mark Henderson. Musical director is Michael Reed, who also conducts.

"In her mansion on Sunset Boulevard," according to press notes, "faded, silent-screen goddess, Norma Desmond, lives in a fantasy world. Impoverished screen writer, Joe Gillis, on the run from debt collectors, stumbles into her reclusive world. Persuaded to work on Norma’s ‘masterpiece’, a film script that she believes will put her back in front of the cameras, he is seduced by her and her luxurious life-style. Joe becomes entrapped in a claustrophobic world until his love for another woman leads him to try and break free with dramatic consequences."

Tony and Olivier Award winner Patti LuPone created the role of Norma Desmond for the musical's 1993 world-premiere production in London, earning an Olivier nomination for her performance. Glenn Close played the role in Los Angeles and later in New York, where she won a 1995 Tony Award for her work as the aging, deluded actress. Other musical Normas include Betty Buckley (London and New York), Elaine Paige (London and New York), Diahann Carroll (Canada), Petula Clark (London and U.S. tour), Debra Byrne (Australia), Helen Schneider (Germany) and Linda Balgord (U.S. tour). Florence Lacey played the role at the Signature Theatre.

Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard is based on Billy Wilder's 1950 movie of the same name, which featured Gloria Swanson as the reclusive Norma Desmond who falls in love with an unlucky writer — Joe Gillis — who happens upon her home by accident. William Holden played Gillis in the film; Swanson, Holden and Wilder all received Academy Award nominations for their work.

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