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updated: 1/18/2013 6:26 AM

Drury Lane ready for closeup with 'Sunset Boulevard'

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  • Christine Sherrill stars as Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Sunset Boulevard" at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace.

    Christine Sherrill stars as Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Sunset Boulevard" at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace.

By Scott Morgan

If local audiences' appetites for Andrew Lloyd Webber aren't satisfied with the Marriott Theatre's "Now & Forever," they can also feast on the composer's full-length musical "Sunset Boulevard" at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace.

Lloyd Webber's award-winning 1994 Broadway musical, starting previews at Drury Lane Thursday, Jan. 24, is an adaptation of Billy Wilder's classic 1950 film about a faded silent movie star named Norma Desmond and the financially troubled screenwriter, Joe Gillis, who later becomes her gigolo.

Drury Lane artistic director William Osetek, who is directing "Sunset Boulevard," said he hopes the near simultaneous timing of the two Lloyd Webber shows will spur audiences to see both productions.

"We always refer to our relationship with them as a friendly competition," Osetek said about the Marriott Theatre. "Frankly one of the things we most compete for is titles, and usually we'll find out if something is unavailable because they already have the rights to do it."

It's been nine years since "Sunset Boulevard" was last staged professionally in the Chicago area at the Marriott Theatre, and the original tour famously played at the Civic Opera House in 1997 complete with John Napier's ornate hovering mansion set. In many ways, "Sunset Boulevard" was the one of last British shows with major scenic spectacles that included the massive floating tire of "Cats," the helicopter in "Miss Saigon" and the falling chandelier in "The Phantom of the Opera."

"I felt the original production of 'Sunset Boulevard' was more about a set than a story," Osetek said, noting that the look of the Drury Lane sets won't appear as pristine to better match with Norma Desmond's faded delusions of grandeur. "For me, the star is the story. It takes so many incredible turns."

Osetek also loves Lloyd Webber's lush Hollywood-sounding score and the big ballads for Norma Desmond's character like "With One Look" and "As If We Never Said Goodbye." That's why he felt it was important to cast someone like Christine Sherrill who could properly sing the role.

"There is no doubt in my mind that we have the cast to deliver this material," Osetek said. "I couldn't be happier with Christine as Norma."

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