- Dress Circle Reviews
Sunset Boulevard Review
When you talk about Andrew Lloyd Webber people always tend to highlight Phantom of The Opera or Cats. But for me his best works are Evita and Sunset Boulevard. The former are easier to sell as lavish affairs but the latter are gritter and with more interesting, complex and flawed leads.
So I set off to watch The Curve’s filmed production of Sunset Boulevard. This was originally a concert production which as a format I don’t like. While it’s great to show off the voices I like to see the story develop and this changed staging certainly did that. With no audience they use every inch of the theatre to great effect. With a set made up of only lighting rigs and cameras, evocative of a film studio sound stage, the use of the seating within the production brought a whole new dimension to the show which wouldn’t have been possible just on the limited stage.
The show opens with Joe Gillis, a struggling Hollywood writer, telling us of a tragic ending to the story and then walking us through the story from 6 months earlier. The role is performed by Danny Mac and I was impressed by his performance. I recently saw him in Pretty Woman (recently being a year ago) as the one dimensional Edward. This role has more depth and he thrived in it. His vocals were on point and his acting encapsulated the different roles Joe takes on depending on who he’s with – everyone is always playing a role. I’ll be interested to see the next role he takes on.
Then we have Ria Jones as Norma Desmond who was flawless from the start. Despite her demands of being in control her vulnerability is always latent making her more sympathetic than has sometimes been achieved in the past. Ria Jones was the first person to perform the role in the musical 1991 (in Sydmonton before being replaced for the west end run) and was understudy to Glenn Close at the Coliseum. It’s great to see her take on the lead here.
The whole cast excelled in their roles, each one bringing energy and passion, it was a joy to watch. My only criticism was that, through the need for social distancing, the parts where the physical relationships started were not fully apparent. A few changes in the script could have made this easier to follow for those not familiar with the story (I watched with someone who missed these points).
What was really surprising was how much they had thought about how best to film it. There were several walking shots of Joe talking to the camera directly, putting characters in intimate areas away from the staging and an impressive combination of overlaying the film with other projections. This became particularly important for showing chaos which a single shot wouldn’t have done. Most impressive of these was combining Norma on screen with images of herself in her movies, making her words stand out and the two faces together more evocative of her sadness. Most recordings are just that, a recording of a stage show. This is something where they thought about what filming could add and have produced an incredible combination of stage and screen. Nikolai Foster has set a new bar for streamed theatre (although we hope that won’t be necessary going forward) for which he should be applauded. I hope when the movie gets produced it manages to bring in the beauty of the theatre in the same way this production has welcomed in filming.
Streaming until January 9th book direct with The Curve Theatre here https://www.curveonline.co.uk/whats-on/
Rating: 5 Star *****