Why 'Sunset Boulevard' is the most hotly anticipated West End revival in years

Learn more about the highly anticipated revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard, starring Nicole Scherzinger, in our ultimate guide to the show.

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

Once again, Norma Desmond is ready for her close-up! Yes, this autumn sees a major West End revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Black, and Christopher Hampton’s iconic Hollywood musical Sunset Boulevard, playing at London’s Savoy Theatre for a 16-week season. “It’s as if we never said goodbye…”

Sunset Boulevard tells the torrid story of a fading silent-movie star, Norma Desmond, who tempts a young wannabe screenwriter, Joe Gillis, into collaborating with her on her planned return to the big screen. But their partnership soon descends into jealousy, lust, greed, delusion, and finally murder.

The show was last seen in town in 2016, when Glenn Close led a semi-staged run at the Coliseum, but we arguably haven’t had a full-out London production since it premiered in 1993 – making this one of the most hotly anticipated West End revivals in years. Take “one look” at our guide as we count down the top reasons why we’re looking forward to the return of Sunset Boulevard.

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It’s a thrilling Hollywood tale

The musical is based on the Oscar-winning 1950 movie of the same name, and retains its fabulous film noir plot. Norma is an extraordinary creation: an imperious former screen siren who lives in a fantasy world, still believing she’s famous and adored. She’s both villain and victim – and a delicious role for an actress.

She becomes entangled with the opportunistic Joe Gillis, who is torn between ambition (Norma is his possible ticket to Hollywood glory) and love (with the brilliant script reader Betty Schaefer). Sunset Boulevard is an enticing mix of murder mystery, cautionary fable, love triangle, and, ultimately, grand tragedy.

It features a glorious Andrew Lloyd Webber score

The musical adaptation premiered in 1993 at the Adelphi Theatre, directed by Trevor Nunn, and its score has remained a favourite among musicals fans ever since. There are witty industry-satirising numbers, like “Let’s Have Lunch” and “Every Movie’s a Circus”, but it’s Lloyd Webber’s contemplative songs that really soar.

Chief among them are Norma’s big numbers, “With One Look” and “As If We Never Said Goodbye”. In the former, Norma wistfully recalls a time, back in her silent movie days, when she could break someone’s heart with just one look, while in the latter (which has been covered by Barbra Streisand and Alfie Boe) Norma is reunited with her lost love: the film set.

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Nicole Scherzinger is our new leading lady

Over the years, some incredible actresses have relished the part of Norma – beginning with the originator, the great Patti LuPone. Others include Betty Buckley, Glenn Close, Elaine Paige, Rita Moreno, Ria Jones, and Stephanie J Block. Now we can add to that impressive list Nicole Scherzinger, who leads this West End revival.

Scherzinger is best known as a former member of The Pussycat Dolls and judge on reality shows like The X Factor. However, she also has musical theatre chops: she starred as Grizabella in the 2014 London Palladium revival of Lloyd Webber’s Cats, meaning she got to sing its breakout song “Memory”.

Rachel Tucker is Norma too!

Yes, that’s right: we get not just one but two wonderful leading ladies in this Sunset Boulevard revival. Rachel Tucker will be playing Norma at select performances throughout the run – which means you’ve got a great excuse to see the show at least twice, so you can catch both interpretations of the role.

Tucker is a West End and Broadway star, with amazing roles under her belt like Beverley Bass in Come From Away, Meat in We Will Rock You, Meg in Sting’s The Last Ship, Grace O’Malley in The Pirate Queen, and of course Elphaba in Wicked. Will she defy gravity as Norma Desmond? We’ll soon find out…

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The whole company is top-notch

Joining those two stars in this Sunset Boulevard revival is an impressive cast with tons of great musical theatre credits between them. Playing screenwriter Joe Gillis is Tom Francis (& Juliet, What’s New Pussycat), while Grace Hodgett Young (Sister Act) is Betty Schaefer and David Thaxton (Les Misérables, Come From Away, The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies) is Norma’s loyal butler Max.

The creative team is remarkable too: sets and costumes by Soutra Gilmour (A Doll’s House, Merrily We Roll Along), choreography by Fabian Aloise (In Dreams, Evita), musical direction by Alan Williams (Crazy For You, Funny Girl), and video by Nathan Amzi and Joe Ransom (Cabaret, 42nd Street). Expect some seriously stylish work.

Jamie Lloyd is directing

Last but definitely not least, this Sunset Boulevard benefits from the creative genius of Jamie Lloyd. His numerous credits include – most recently – The Effect at the National Theatre and A Doll’s House on Broadway, plus other West End and Broadway hits like Cyrano de Bergerac, Betrayal, The Seagull, The Homecoming, and an unforgettable Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

Lloyd has brilliantly directed big names (like Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Emilia Clarke, James McAvoy and Kit Harington), so we can expect great things from his team-up with Scherzinger and Tucker. He’s also renowned for his bold, dynamic and visionary revivals of classic work, which makes this Sunset Boulevard a very exciting prospect indeed.

Don’t miss out! Book your Sunset Boulevard tickets on London Theatre.

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