As rehearsals for English National Opera’s production of Sunset Boulevard, led by Hollywood star Glenn Close, pick up pace, Siobhan Dillon tells us about the show’s first run-through and a moment that will remain with her forever:
This week was memorable on so many levels. We all worked really hard to be off book [when the performers have learned the script by heart] so we could play more with our characters and invest in Stephen Mear’s clever choreography. It all came together (almost) seamlessly for our first entire run-through on Saturday morning. Quite an achievement I think. It certainly felt like that for all involved.
But I want to tell you about Wednesday 2 March. This is a day that will stay with me for a long time. Probably forever. As one of our cast members Aaron Lee Lambert put it:
“Today was one of those rehearsals you remember for the rest of your life…”
It all started with a simple run-through of the Paramount scenes which, for me, are probably the most moving and tragic of the entire piece.
It’s years since the ageing film star Norma Desmond has been to Paramount studios where she had spent her youth as a star, performing in silent movies to great acclaim. You can sense her nerves as she anticipates her return.
Norma is led to a director’s chair in the middle of the bustling studio and is met with a domino effect of realisation as one by one, the studio crew, make up and wardrobe men and women, technicians and camera men recognise her iconic face and find themselves stopped dead in their tracks. In disbelief, in awe, in amazement. Transfixed.
A huge follow spot glides over the auditorium and catches her. We watch as sheer joy illuminates her face. Basking in the light, she is home.
Glenn Close sat in that director’s chair, centre stage and sang As If We Never Said Goodbye and my heart broke. It broke for the once young and successful and indeed somewhat deluded Norma Desmond, but also it broke because I was so overwhelmed with gratitude and I could feel the same thing emanating from every single person in that room.
We are so very lucky to be in the company of talent like this, sharing the same stage. It was a once in a lifetime moment for me and one of the most powerful moments I have ever experienced in musical theatre, let alone just two weeks into rehearsals. Magnificent.