Sunset Boulevard at New Wimbledon Theatre
Sunset Boulevard is one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hits that tells of Norma Desmond a forgotten silent movie star. One night Joe Gillis, an out of work writer, turns up at her door. After convincing him to assist her with a script she has been working on, Desmond soon begins to manipulate him. Before long and despite repeated attempts to leave Gillis becomes a permanent resident in her mansion and Desmond’s lover. Desmond’s wish to exert further control over Joe grows until she descends into madness, convincing herself that she has made her grand return.
Sunset Boulevard is a musical that has aged well. First performed some 27 years ago the themes are more poignant today than ever and this beautifully crafted version brings this perfectly to the fore. In today’s society where people go to extreme lengths for these five minutes of fame, despite it’s transient nature Norma Desmond’s drive and determination for a ‘return’ is easy to contextualise.
The show is both directed and performed with a lot of elegance. The set assists this with the grand staircase that Desmond frequently descends having the ability to split up into smaller sections and be used for other scenes to great effect and interest.
Ria Jones plays the iconic role of Norma Desmond after being the standby in the ENO production last year, however I can’t imagine anyone living up to this performance. Jones gives a very raw performance as Norma Desmond which ensures the audience flits between feeling sorry for her and feeling outraged at her manipulation. ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye’ was a particular highlight with the follow spot bearing down on her.
Danny Mac could have a hard time playing opposite such a tour de force however his portrayal of the conflicted Gillis compliments Ria Jones’ Desmond well. Mac’s singing voice also suits the role well and the title song, opening Act 2 was thoroughly enjoyable. Whilst Mac and Jones have scene stealing moments another standout performance was Adam Pearce as Max Von Meyerling. His scene with Gillis toward the end of the show (I don’t want to give away any spoilers) was gut wrenching and his demeanour throughout suited the character perfectly.
The fact that there was a 16 piece orchestra was also a lovely addition. In many touring productions the audience simply accept a small band or click tracks but this orchestra showed what a difference live music really can make, especially to Lloyd Webbers beautiful score.
It is rare you see a touring show with as much class as this, a top notch cast, a wonderful score played well and a set that is both imaginative and functional. I recommend you get yourself down to New Wimbledon Theatre as soon as you can in order to catch this stunning production.