Sunset Boulevard is the center point in the story of Norma Desmond, the screen goddess of the silent screen era whose blighted comeback results in tragedy. The classic 1950 film from Billy Wilder is transformed into a stage show by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and has been given a crisp flare from Leicester’s very own Nikolai Foster. The musical follows the tragedy of an ageing, volatile celebrity forgotten by her fans and desperately seeking a return to her glory days of fame. She hires an ambitious writer Joe Gillis who is bitter that his chance of success has yet to be successful. It’s a constant seesaw of who is using who?
Ria Jones, known for hitting the front pages when she took over the role as Norma when illness forced Glenn Close to pull out of the show temporarily, has become the title role in her own right. She claims the core of this performance in the leading role, owning the show. Her emotive and fulfilling vocal range has her audience enthralled. The silence is almost defining during her rendition of 'As If We Never Said Goodbye'.
Supporting such a strong female lead is left to the task of Danny Mac, who plays Joe Gillis. He provides the charm and chiseled features to turn Norma's head, especially when the opportunity to seize her career is available. Norma does provide the centerpiece of the performance, but Joe is the main thread that brings the story together. We are able to see the former Strictly Come Dancing strut his ballroom moves with flare and poise. Amongst the strong company is Adam Pearce as Max, his vocal range is sensational, as well as Molly Lynch as Betty Schaefer, her youthful and optimism to become a young writer leads her astray from her husband to be. She becomes captivated by Joe Gillis' creativity and charm, a wonderful addition to the cast and story.
It's also important to address Colin Richmond's design, with his fabulous play in zoom and transitions through the hurried plot. His design accomplishes a great relationship with Ben Cracknell's lighting design as well as a 16-piece orchestra which provides the heart of this gorgeous musical. Such an iconic snapshot in movie history, the UK Tour of Sunset Boulevard is well worth a trip to the theatre and an absolute success of a new musical production. - Emmet-Hope Newitt