A SUCCESSFUL actress who has appeared in TV shows such as Emmerdale and Spooks will take the lead role in BrassNeck Theatre’s Sunset Boulevard this month.

Laura Judge will play the larger than life character of Norma Desmond in BrassNeck Theatre’s Sunset Boulevard.

“It’s such an honour to play this iconic woman. I’ve researched extensively beyond Hollywood’s golden age of movies, into the silent era and studied that very distinctive style and physicality of a silent film actress,” she said.

“The hook for me is finding Norma’s vulnerability and balancing it against her manipulative toxicity. She is a woman whose massive stardom was constructed around her youthful beauty. Once this starts to fade the superficial movie industry has no use for her and inevitably her control, self-worth and mental health are diminished leading to tragic consequences.”

This is a role that has been tackled by huge names in film and theatre of the years. From Elaine Paige to Petula Clarke and Glenn Close.

Sunset Boulevard, the musical, is set in 1950’s Hollywood with Don Black and Christopher Hampton writing the book and lyrics and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Based on Billy Wilder’s Academy Award-winning 1950 film of the same title, the plot revolves around Norma Desmond, a faded star of the silent screen era, living in the past in her decaying mansion on the fabled Los Angeles street. When young screenwriter Joe Gillis accidentally crosses her path, she sees in him an opportunity to make her return to the big screen. Romance and tragedy follow.

Laura said: “Norma’s whole life is based on self-delusion. She firmly believes that she can resurrect her career in an industry which has moved on and forgotten her. She is desperately obsessed with her own celebrity, yet very much a victim of the whole Hollywood machine. The biggest challenge for me has been to look beyond her melodramatic exterior and find the truth and humility in the character.”

Laura is no stranger to the world of celebrity, stage and screen. She is a successful actress working in both television and film – such as Emmerdale, Spooks: Code 9, Diamond Geezer, Heartbeat and Blue Murder.

Working in theatre in education and working in local theatre, Laura has also starred in BrassNeck Theatre production with standout roles including Golde, in Fiddler, Morticia in The Addams Family and most recently The Witch in Sondheim’s Into the Woods.

She said: “My love affair with BrassNeck Theatre started when I was invited, along with my friend Caroline, to appear in Royston Bayfield’s ground-breaking production of Carousel in 2007 here at Yeadon Town Hall. It was so good that we never left - so good in fact that she married him - and the rest is history’

Laura’s son, Bradley, has now followed in his mum’s footsteps and is enjoying fantastic success. Last year they were both in panto. Bradley was playing Aladdin in New Brighton and Laura was playing Carabosse - the Wicked Queen- in Sleeping Beauty at the Belgrade in Coventry. Their only day off together was Christmas Day.

Bradley has also gone on to star in Sister Act, Pippin, the UK tour of Salad Days, Sonny in Grease and Rotelli in Yank.

He is currently starring as Woof in the UK tour of Hair the musical, alongside TV star and X Factor finalist, Jake Quickenden.

A spokeswoman for BrassNeck said: “It’s no surprise that Laura is excelling in this now infamous role of Norma Desmond with her training and years of experience on the stage and screen.”

Laura said she had two favourite Andrew Lloyd Webber songs in the show.

“As if we never said Goodbye encapsulates Norma’s imagined glorious return to the screen. It comes fairly late in the show, so the audience already know that she’s deluding herself which lends this powerful song a kind of sad melancholy.

“The other is This time next year, an ensemble number featuring the young hopefuls from the studio at a New Year’s Eve party, showing the flip side of Hollywood. Our director has juxtaposed this warm party atmosphere against the contrasting scene at Norma’s house, it works incredibly well.

“I also love the opening of Act 2, Sunset Boulevard - a triumph of a song in which Joe brings the audience up to speed and rationalises his lifestyle choices.”

Sunset Boulevard plays at Yeadon Town Hall from May 14 to 18. It will be staged at 7.30pm from Tuesday to Friday and at 2pm and 6.30pm on Saturday. All tickets can be booked online at: www.brassnecktheatre.com or call: 0113 250 5011.