How was the actress Norma Desmond discovered

April Hailer is Norma

April Hailer is the prominent cast for the silent film diva Norma Desmond in the Burgfestspiel staging of the musical "Sunset Boulevard". She reveals what she discovered behind the myth of Star and why she likes the Burgbühne better than London musicals.

Bad Vilbel. The story has been legendary since Billy Wilder filmed it with Gloria Swanson in 1950 and Andrew Lloyd Webber turned it into a musical in 1993. Norma Desmond is an icon of the silent film, but Hollywood has had its day. She holed up with her butler Max in her villa, a mausoleum of bygone glory. Until one day the screenwriter Joe gets lost and wants to arrange a comeback.

Great height of fall

The story is told as a flashback of the just murdered Joe, but actually, according to the Burgfestspiel director Claus-Günther Kunzmann, the piece should be called "Sunset Boulevard - Norma Desmond", "also because of the unlikely height of fall that is in it". Norma is a character who falls out of time and that is precisely why she is so relevant to him. Even today there are people who are thrown off course by technical progress, who are suppressing it.

The play will be rehearsed at the beginning of May. The stage set is still being built, but the cast is in place. Reason enough to introduce the prominent leading role. April Hailer will sound out Norma Desmond's soul life on stage. The "singing actress" (mezzo-soprano) who lives in Cologne has not only gained open-air theater experience in Bad Hersfeld, Wunsiedel and Schwäbisch Hall and had a ZDF show under her name. Above all, she passes on her experience: in the jury at the national singing competition in the field of musical / chanson or as an acting lecturer at the August Everding Academy in Munich.

“I come from a musical, free-spirited family,” she says. Her father was a church musician; she had played the oboe for 25 years. But other things also move them, such as terminal care. She stepped in on South Tyrolean farms to help out in the event of illness: "This is not an idyll."

She came to Bad Vilbel “because of the artistic task,” says Hailer. The castle festival is "known in the industry". The fact that the stage there is much more compact than a London musical theater, for example, is fantastic for her character and allows it to be very differentiated. She does not find access to the star through outward appearances, ornaments or attitudes, but through the zeitgeist.

Naughty it girls

The “It Girls” of the 1920s and 1930s were “cheeky, thin, vital and crazy”, and Norma must have had this charisma, this sensitivity. In addition, there is the "drama of an old lady who no longer sees her place in the now," the 58-year-old explains the role for which she has great respect.

The staging has not yet been completed, but Kunzmann reveals so much that there is no video installation on the stage, as can be seen in other performances, for example with chases. These are just outward appearances. Kunzmann reveals another reason why he is looking forward to Sunset Boulevard. The Castle Festival was able to acquire the license for the Webber production. That is not a matter of course. While performances of well-known musicals can easily be booked in the province, the rights holders refuse to accept around a third of the inquiries from Bad Vilbel. This should save competition from major events in Frankfurt, the Alte Oper and the Jahrhunderthalle. Most recently he asked the musical Cats in vain, regrets Kunzmann.