Norma Desmond has always been on my radar of roles to play. I think when Sunset Boulevard first happened I was considered too young. Then I was actually seen for the tour which happened about eight years ago, but didn\'t get it. So I was absolutely delighted to be asked to play it now - I don\'t think anybody could say I\'m not old enough!
It\'s a much smaller production than many Sunset Boulevards of the past. The original had a wonderful staircase and massive sets, but we\'ve stripped that all away which makes you hone in on the story and the characters – I think it becomes a much richer piece because of that. It certainly doesn\'t seem to lose anything musically either, although it was originally written for a large orchestra. They make the most incredible sound with only twelve musicians. Being an actor-musician piece it does add a new dynamic to the piece. I personally am not playing any instruments - I don\'t play anything proficiently enough - though there was talk for a time about me banging a triangle or something!
Norma is up there as one of the great tragic heroines in musical theatre and I\'ve been lucky enough to play quite a few in my career. There was Evita, which was my first big break in the West End and that was a pretty hard act to follow. About ten years after that I played Rose in Aspects of Love, which was a wonderful role. I have much to thank Andrew Lloyd Webber for, since my favourite jobs have been in his musicals – he writes such great character roles for women.
Working with Craig (Revel Horwood) is an absolutely delight. I\'m not the kind of actress who\'s great in the rehearsal period, I prefer to get up on the stage. But with this, I couldn\'t wait to get to rehearsals because we\'ve had such a ball. He\'s great, and I think he was the perfect person for this piece because his choreographic background is so important when you\'re trying to move a double bass on and off the stage! And he\'s just lovely in the sense that you can have a great laugh with him yet you respect him at the same time. When he claps his hands and says “let’s go on” you just do it - it\'s a lovely balanced atmosphere he creates in the rehearsal room.
As for the future, I would still love to play Rose in Gypsy and Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd, though to be honest I\'m thinking of semi-retiring. I live in the depths of Suffolk and it really has to be something extremely special, like this, to drag me away. I have a husband and six dogs and I miss them horribly, so it\'s only parts like this that make it worth it. But you never know what will come along. There were always two roles that I really wanted to play. One was Annie Get Your Gun, and the other was Lilli Vanessi in Kiss Me Kate, but I guess I\'m a little too old for those now, so when I was asked to do this it was just a gift. More so, because I had a car accident a couple of years ago and I broke my leg in two places along with my collarbone, and for a long time I lost my nerve. I didn\'t know if I could get back up on the stage again, let alone in a part like this. So for it to have been a success at the Watermill and to now be opening in the West End is just a dream.
Sunset Boulevard opens tonight at the Comedy Theatre (15 December 2008, previews from 4 December), where it\'s currently booking until 18 April 2008.
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