Michael Xavier, Siobhan Dillon and Fred Johanson join Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard at the ENO
January 24, 2016  //  By:   //  News  //  Comments are off

Michael Xavier, Siobhan Dillon and Fred Johanson will join Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard, the second production in the partnership between English National Opera (ENO) and the GradeLinnit Company.  With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, Sunset Boulevard is produced by arrangement with The Really Useful Group Ltd and is based on the original Paramount film by Billy Wilder.

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Lonny Price will direct the strictly limited run of 43 performances at ENO’s London Coliseum which begins on 1 April 2016 with press night on 4 April 2016 at 7.30pm and will have its final performance on 7 May 2016. The full ENO orchestra will appear on stage alongside the cast in this semi-staged production. Orchestrations are by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber with choreography by Stephen Mear, set designs by James Noone, costume designs by Tracy Christensen, Glenn Close’s costumes designs by Anthony Powell, sound by Mick Potter and lighting by Mark Henderson.  Musical Director is Michael Reed who also conducts.

Close, Xavier, Dillon and Johanson are joined by a Company including Julian Forsyth as Cecil B DeMille, Mark Goldthorp as Sheldrake, Fenton Gray as Manfred, Haydn Oakley as Artie Green and James Paterson as Jonesy.  Further company members include Carly Anderson, Jacob Chapman, Ria Jones, Katie Kerr, Aaron Lee Lambert, Vicki Lee Taylor, Jo Morris, Ashley Robinson, Gary Tushaw and Adam Vaughan.  Final casting will be announced shortly.

In her mansion on Sunset Boulevard, faded, silent-screen goddess, Norma Desmond, lives in a fantasy world. Impoverished screen writer, Joe Gillis, on the run from debt collectors, stumbles into her reclusive world. Persuaded to work on Norma’s ‘masterpiece’, a film script that she believes will put her back in front of the cameras, he is seduced by her and her luxurious life-style.  Joe becomes entrapped in a claustrophobic world until his love for another woman leads him to try and break free with dramatic consequences.

Glenn Close, making her West End debut as well as her first reprisal of the role for UK audiences, plays faded silent movie star Norma Desmond, for which she has previously won a Tony Award, a Drama Desk Award, a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award and a Dramalogue Award for the Broadway production directed by Trevor Nunn.

Michael Xavier (Joe Gillis) is currently playing the role of Gaylord Ravenal in the critically acclaimed musical Show Boat at the Sheffield Crucible.  His other theatre credits include Suffolk/ George of Clarence in Sir Trevor Nunn’s production of The Wars Of The Roses at The Rose Theatre, Emmanuel Schikaneder in Emmanuel and Eleonore (workshop) directed by Sir Trevor Nunn and composed by Stephen Schwartz, John Wilkes Booth in Assassins at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Sid Sorokin in The Pajama Game at the Shaftesbury Theatre, Captain Von Trapp in the Sound of Music at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Cornelius Hakl in Hello Dolly at the Leicester Curve Theatre, Oliver in Love Story at The Duchess Theatre (Olivier Nomination-Best Actor in a Musical), Wolf/Cinderella’s Prince in Into The Woods at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre (Olivier Nomination-Best Supporting Performance in a Musical), Curly in Oklahoma! at the Chichester Festival Theatre, Sir Galahad in Spamalot at The Palace Theatre, Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Bob Baker in Wonderful Town for the Royal Exchange Theatre, James Prince in Soho Cinders, Sky in Mamma Mia and Freddy in My Fair Lady.  His television and film credits include Tom in Never Let Go (Latitude Films), Rob in Gnomeland (Short) and The Muppets..Again! (Disney). Michael has also hosted the UK Theatre Awards, West End Live and the Olivier Awards at the Piazza.

Siobhan Dillon (Betty Shaefer) was a finalist on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s How Do you Solve A Problem Like Maria? on BBC1.  Her theatre credits include Sandy in Grease at the Piccadilly Theatre, Vivienne Kensington in Legally Blonde at the Savoy Theatre, Molly Jensen in Ghost The Musical at the Piccadilly Theatre, Ellen in Miss Saigon at the Prince Edward Theatre and Sally Bowles in the UK tour of Cabaret.

Fred Johanson (Max Von Mayerling) has starred in several major musicals in both his native Sweden as well as the West End including Peron in Evita, Javert in Les Miserables, Old Deuteronomy in Cats, Reverend Shaw in Footloose, The Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Louis B. Meyer in Garbo, Frollo in Notre Dame de Paris as well as Max in Sunset Boulevard at the Gothenburg Opera.  He played Pontius Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar both on stage and in the 2001 film version and as a soloist he has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, the National Concert Hall Dublin, the Berwaldhallen and the Stockholm Concert Hall.  He has released two solo albums and reached number one in the Australian charts with the group Scandal’us, achieving double platinum status.  He has also written songs for ABBA’s Annifrid Lyngstad.

Based on Billy Wilder’s classic film, Sunset Boulevard originally premiered in London at the Adelphi Theatre in 1993, where it ran for almost four years and played to nearly two million people.  It went on to open on Broadway in 1994 to what was then, the biggest advance in Broadway history, $37.5million.

Sunset Boulevard will be presented by Michael Linnit and Michael Grade for Gate Ventures PLC with ENOJohnny Hon as Executive Producer.

In March 2015 ENO and the GradeLinnit Company presented the critically acclaimed sell-out run of Sweeney Todd with Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel in the inaugural production of their partnership.

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Photo: Richard Hubert Smith