Touring – reviewed at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton
Guest reviewer: Sarah Miatt
Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Black and Christopher Hampton’s musical adaptation of the seminal, classic film, Sunset Boulevard hasn’t toured the UK for a number of years. The sheer magnitude of the production makes this easy to see why. This Curve staging successfully manages to keep the glamour and scale required of a show documenting the golden age of Hollywood whilst making it suitable for a touring company.
First mention must go to the astounding orchestra lead by Adrian Kirk. The musicians not only perform flawlessly, but the sound produced completely immerses you in the piece whilst beautifully complementing and not overwhelming the talented cast.
The set is put to brilliant use with the famous staircase working so hard it deserves a mention all of its own. Telling the story, in flashback, as a Hollywood movie is inspired and works so well, complete with clever projections, lighting and props.
All the performances, without exception, are fantastic. A talented ensemble executes clever movement and sings beautifully, whilst the leads are all brilliantly cast.
Dougie Carter as failing writer Joe Gillis is both young and jaded, portraying the conflicted personality perfectly. His chemistry with Ria Jones’ Norma Desmond shows the toxic nature of their relationship very well.
Carter also has a wonderful connection with Molly Lynch as Betty Schaefer who in turn is sweet and enthusiastic with a beautiful, pure voice perfect for the role. Adam Pearce as the butler with a secret, Max Von Meyerling, is both severe and heartwarming with a wonderful baritone voice that rumbles beautifully throughout the auditorium.
This show will, by nature always belong to Norma Desmond and the whole production in essence hangs on this one performance. Luckily Ria Jones in the role of the faded and damaged star did not disappoint. It is almost difficult to put into words how truly phenomenal her performance was. Without doubt it was one of the most astounding musical theatre performances I have ever seen and she is made for the role. From her first appearance singing the lullaby “surrender” to the corpse of her pet chimp, to the beautifully sung “As if We Never Said Goodbye” she was perfection personified in every way.