Andrew Lloyd Webber’s version of the 1950 film is smartly staged by Leicester’s Curve, starring Ria Jones and Danny Mac
When screenwriter Joe Gillis swerves into the driveway of 10086 Sunset Boulevard, he discovers a forgotten mansion with a ghost of a tennis court and an empty pool “where Clara Bow and Fatty Arbuckle must have swum 10,000 midnights ago”. In Billy Wilder’s 1950 film, the house itself is compared to Dickens’s Miss Havisham rather than its once illustrious inhabitant, Norma Desmond, the silent screen queen jilted by an industry in thrall to the talkies. The residence, which ensnares Gillis as he is employed as script doctor for Desmond’s comeback, is both museum and mausoleum for her stardom. It is key to representing how the sun has set on her career.
The 1993 London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical based on the film had an elaborately atmospheric mansion design by John Napier. But this concert version, filmed at Leicester’s Curve just before Christmas, unfolds on a spartan circular stage without so much as a gilded divan. Using video projections to evoke the Los Angeles locations, Nikolai Foster’s production instead promotes Curve’s own building to star status: scenes take place backstage, in the balcony, around a 16-piece orchestra, up in the rigs of the fly tower and even underneath the raked seating.