We’re used to shocking confessions, inspiring speeches, moments of self-doubt and pleasing revelations, but normally they come neatly scripted on stage rather than in week one of rehearsals.
Yet Siobhan Dillon’s first week of rehearsals for Sunset Boulevard, the revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s acclaimed musical that sees Glenn Close making her West End debut next month, seems to have been packed with more intrigue than the show’s infamous story.
New to that story? It follows former screen star Norma Desmond as the unheralded arrival of impoverished writer Joe Gillis seems to offer her a chance to reclaim her lost glory, but ultimately leads to tragedy.
So, maybe that week of rehearsals didn’t have quite that level of drama, but it came close:
Week one of rehearsals for the beauty of the musical that is Sunset Boulevard…
I had heard the odd singer belting out songs from this show but I have to admit I had never seen it, or even the movie for that matter.
It was a rainy, miserable Monday but the Sunset Boulevard meet and greet was wonderful. The highlight for me was when our wonderful director Lonny Price introduced us to every person within the creative team, expressing his gratitude and love for all and for the craft. He gave one of the most inspiring and heartfelt speeches I think I've ever heard.
Lonny spoke to us all about his experiences with former leading ladies who had similar character traits to that of our lead character Norma Desmond, who is ultimately a tragic victim of the Hollywood machine. It was fascinating and insightful and for every person in that room, a real moment of unity and excitement about the journey ahead.
By midweek, music learning was well underway and our wonderful choreographer Stephen Mear took the whole company through the opening number Let's Have Lunch, which is… let's just say it’s complex and incredibly impressive.
When I accidentally stumbled into the wrong rehearsal room – I do that regularly! – it turned out to be quite fortuitous as the ensemble had just finished putting the two aspects together; their MASSIVE vocals, in what seemed like seven-part harmonies, along with choreography. Colourful characters were emerging effortlessly along with a movie set trailer-load full of Paramount pizzazz.
There wasn't a script or score in sight.
I was in awe.
"These guys are amazing" I thought as I scurried out of the rehearsal room door in search of my self-confidence!
Let’s hope she finds it soon. Find out in Dillon’s next rehearsal diary, coming soon.
Sunset Boulevard plays at the London Coliseum from 1 April to 7 May. You can book tickets through the theatre’s website.