Music and lyrics’s: Lloyd Webber, Black and Hampton
Premiered: 12 July, 1993
Theatre: The Adelphi Theatre
Strand, Covent Garden, London
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Both haunting and desperately sad, Sunset Boulevard revolves around the former star of the silent screen era, Norma Desmond. Aging and largely forgotten for years, she lives in her dilapidated mansion in Hollywood with her butler and chauffeur, Max.
Lost in her memories, she is stirred into action when struggling screenwriter, Joe Gillis, suddenly enters her home and her life. Joe is down on his luck and struggling to escape debt collectors. Norma offers him a room and board if he agrees to edit her incomprehensible script of Salome, a movie she has written and in which she wants to star as the teenage seductress. Norma is convinced that she is still as beautiful and in demand as ever. This misguided belief is sustained by Max, who writes fake fan letters to her and shields her from the realities of the much changed, modern-day movie business. Buoyed by Joe’s presence in her house, she lavishes him with gifts and soon declares her love for him. Her obsession with the young writer further reveals her increasing mental instability, and she threatens to commit suicide if Joe ever leaves her. When Norma visits the film set of a new Cecil B. DeMille movie, she becomes convinced that the director wants to produce Salome and begins to imagine her dramatic return to the screen.
However when Norma learns of Joe’s secret work and love affair with the young Betty Schaefer, her fragile mental state completely breaks down and she fatally shoots Joe as he tries to leave the mansion. With no grip on reality any longer, Norma grandly sweeps down the stairs to the waiting police, declaring, “And now, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”