It was a suitable location for a star entrance. Descending the double staircase at 139 Mugga Way, Red Hill, was silent-screen star Norma Desmond, singing about how "with one look" she could break hearts and set the screen aflame.
Norma will be played by Bronwyn Sullivan in the Canberra area premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Sunset Boulevard. Directed by Stephen Pike, it will be on at the Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre in October.
Based on the Oscar-winning 1950 movie, Sunset Boulevard tells the story of a movie icon whose career was destroyed by the coming of sound, turning her into a recluse in her mansion. When struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis (Daniel Wells) happens to come into her life, she sees it as a chance to make her return to the screen in a movie she has written about Salome, taking Joe on as her collaborator and lover.
Sullivan said, "It's a difficult role, physically and emotionally".
"You really go right through the all the emotions: happy, melancholy, crazy - she always teeters on the edge," she said.
Norma was a tragic character, desperately yearning for love and acceptance.
Sullivan jokingly referred to the role as her comeback. Apart from a supporting role in The Phantom of the Opera last year, she had been absent from the musical stage for some time.
"As you get older there isn't the variety of roles."
Since her first musical, Fiddler on the Roof, in 1978, Sullivan had appeared in many shows including Hello, Dolly!, Show Boat, Chicago and the opera Maria de Buenos Aires.
But Sunset Boulevard was probably the biggest role of them all, she said.
Peter Dark plays Max, Norma's devoted butler.
"He's a bit of an enigma - that's one of the reasons the role is so good," Dark said.
Although a butler, "he's a strong character, he's a butler who holds more power than a butler should have".
The reason for this is not revealed until near the end of the show.
Dark has been appearing on local stages since 1978, when he was in HMS Pinafore, but said Max was a particularly challenging role.
"I had to work on my voice for this show, it's been a while since I had a serious sing. It takes me up as high as I want to go and as low as I can go."
Sunset Boulevard is on at the Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre from October 8 to 25. Tickets $56/$51. Bookings: 62856290.
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