The final line of Billy Wilder's Academy Award-winning classic Sunset Blvd. is legendary. This at-the-time revolutionary film portrays Hollywood during the 1940s and 1950s as a shadowy, hypocrisy-ridden world inhabited by an army of wannabe's and has-beens.
“All right, Mr DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.”
Gloria Swanson was immortalised as the beautiful yet tragic Norma Desmond, a faded film star who tries to make her comeback by tricking up-and-coming screenwriter Joe Gillis to create a script that will make her go down in history. She falls madly in love with him in the process. And then, despite her foolproof plan, trouble turns up disguised as the lovely Betty Schaefer.
Sunset Blvd. became a milestone in movie history because it dared to take a look at the darker side of Hollywood and humanity while combining several genres such as black comedy, drama and film noir.
In 1993, musical legend Andrew Lloyd Webber, responsible for The Phantom of the Opera, Evita and, of course, Cats, sunk his teeth into the material and added another genre to the mix. Aided by writers Don Black and Christopher Hampton, he transformed Sunset Boulevard into a stage musical that went on to win numerous Tony Awards. After its première at the Adelphi Theatre in London, it ran for 1,529 performances and soon made its way to the United States where Glenn Close embodied Norma Desmond.
Over the past 16 years, there have been many international productions, and now Dutch theatre and media mogul Joop Van Den Ende has translated it to Dutch and brought it to Belgium. Paul Eenens, who directed Dutch versions of Jesus Christ Superstar and The Sound of Music, was called in to do the staging. It's now probably the most-anticipated musical of the year in Flanders.
Musical fans should be impressed by the glamour of the stage: a rotating set alternates between Norma's lavish mansion and the film studios where the cast plays out the love affairs and betrayals. The cast is all Dutch, and the Netherlands' two biggest musical-theatre stars, Simone Kleinsma and Pia Douwes, will take turns portraying the larger-than-life Norma Desmond.