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Watermill Resizes Sunset Boulevard, Revives Good

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Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard is the latest formerly big-budget musical to be given the actor-musician makeover at Newbury’s Watermill Theatre. Kathryn Evans (pictured) stars as silent film star Norma Desmond in the new production, directed by Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood, which opens next Monday 14 July 2008 (previews from 9 July) and continues until 30 August at the West Berkshire playhouse.

Based on Billy Wilder\'s 1950 Oscar-winning film of the same name, Sunset Boulevard depicts the faded glamour of the former Hollywood icon Norma Desmond, who’s now living in isolation, with only memories for company. When struggling young screenwriter Joe Gillis appears at her crumbling mansion, she demands a second chance in the limelight.

Sunset Boulevard has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton. The musical premiered at the West End\'s Adelphi Theatre in July 1993, with Patti LuPone starring as Norma Desmond. The following March, the musical closed in order to reopen five weeks later in a revised version which ran for another three years. It had its Broadway premiere in November 1994, with Glenn Close as Norma, and went on to win seven Tony Awards including Best Musical.

Best known as a choreographer, Craig Revel Horwood’s West End credits include Spend, Spend, Spend and My One and Only, both of which garnered him Olivier nominations, as well as the upcoming Flamenco Flamen\'ka, which opens at the Lyric in September (See News, 4 Jul 2008). His directing credits include Beautiful and Damned, South Pacific and, at the Watermill, the actor-musician productions of Hot Mikado and last summer’s Martin Guerre (See News, 4 Jun 2007).

Sarah Travis’ previous Watermill credits include the actor-musician productions of Mack and Mabel, Gondoliers (both also in the West End), Fiddler on the Roof, Pinafore Swing and, with Revel Horwood, Hot Mikado and Martin Guerre. She became the first woman to win the Tony Award for Best Orchestration (in 2006) for the Broadway transfer of the Watermill’s actor-musician staging of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, which also ran in the West End where it won two Whatsonstage.com Awards.

A West End veteran, Kathryn Evans’ many credits include Evita, Follies, Pal Joey and On Your Toes. In Sunset Boulevard, she stars opposite Ben Goddard as Joe Gillis. Completing the 12-strong company are: Elisa Boyd, Tomm Coles (Artie Green), Alexander Evans (Sheldrake), Kate Feldschreiber, Nick Lashbrook (Cecil B Demille), Tarek Merchant, Laura Pitt Pulford (Betty Schaefer), Helen Power, Jon Trenchard (Manfred) and Edward York (Max von Meyerling).

Following Sunset Boulevard, the Watermill’s 2008 season continues in the autumn with a major revival of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s award-winning 1988 play Our Country\'s Good, which runs from 22 September to 25 October 2008 (previews from 17 September) in a new production directed by Alex Clifton.

Based on Thomas Kenneally’s novel The Playmaker, which is based on a real historical incident, Wertenbaker’s play is set in 1788 in Australia, where the first convicts have arrived at the first Australian penal colony. As the settlement evolves, the enlightened governor hatches the idea of introducing some culture and commissions a production of George Farquhar’s Restoration comedy The Recruiting Officer. But with only two copies of the text, a cast of criminals and a leading lady who’s about to be hanged, conditions are hardly ideal.

The Watermill’s Christmas show, running from 29 November 2008 to 3 January 2009 (previews from 26 November), will be the new commission Matilda and Duffy\'s Stupendous Space Adventure, written by Steve Attridge, best known for his children’s TV show The Queen’s Nose.

- by Terri Paddock


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