Sunset Boulevard UK Tour: Marlowe Theatre, London
Reviewed 21st April 2018
Sunset Boulevard by Andrew Lloyd Webber is a musical adaptation of the 1950 film by Billy Wilder. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony Award winning masterpiece, which was first presented in 1993, features songs such as Sunset Boulevard, With One Look, The Greatest Star Of All and The Perfect Year and is performed with a full orchestra. Sunset Boulevard tells the story of a faded, silent-screen goddess, Norma Desmond, who lives in a fantasy world and screen writer, Joe Gillis who is on the run from debt collectors. He is persuaded to work on a script that Norma believes will put her back in front of the cameras and is seduced by her life-style. Joe becomes trapped in Norma’s world until his love for another woman leads him to break free with dramatic consequences.
This latest production of Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece is a triumph. The set, designed by Colin Richmond, is exquisite. Each set piece is stylish, in keeping with the era and expertly made. It would not look out of place in the West End. This tour is in its final weeks and yet the set and props looked like they were fresh from the makers. The use of projection (Douglas O’Connell) and the detailed props throughout the show is fantastic, interesting and innovative. Everything has been thought of to enable the audience to truly imagine being backstage at Paramount Studios or inside the large mansion of Norma Desmond. The lighting and costumes compliment the show effectively and again every element has been carefully thought of and is full of intricate details.
Ria Jones excels as Norma Desmond. She has complete command of the stage. Ria fully embodies the star and her moments of grief, melancholy and despair are perfectly acted. Ria Jones truly shows a masterclass in emotion throughout the show resulting in a dramatic finale! Her vocals throughout the show are outstanding, particularly during the well-known song As If We Never Said Goodbye. She connects with each song and acts through the lyrics as though she really is Norma.
Danny Mac is also fantastic as Joe Gillis. While many audience members may know Danny Mac from TV shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Hollyoaks, he is far beyond the ‘celebrity cast member’. He is extremely talented and his vocals are spot on. His characterisation and expression throughout is believable and honest. It was a shame that he didn’t get much opportunity to showcase his fantastic dancing skills however the dancing and choreography, by Lee Proud, is definitely in keeping with the show and is stylish and well performed.
This production feels like it could easily be a direct transfer from the West End due to its high quality set, lighting and cast. What adds a huge amount to the production is the use of a full orchestra. With a lot of modern musicals using smaller bands it really makes an impact to hear a full orchestra playing live. The orchestra is brilliant and the orchestrations by David Cullen are thoroughly enjoyable to listen to.
This new touring production of Sunset Boulevard, directed by Nikolai Foster, has received lots of praise and accolades. It is easy to see why. It is stylish, sophisticated and stunning. Ria Jones owns the stage whenever she is on it and embodies her character whilst Danny Mac excels in all aspects of his role.
Sunset Boulevard UK Tour ends on the 28th April in Sheffield. For tickets and more information click here.
Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan