Review by Olivia Gardener
An ageing actress, a handsome writer and a brutal industry. This Hollywood extravaganza tells the story of a woman fallen from fame who by chance meets the young and charming screenwriter Joe Gillis (Danny Mac), whose own future in the film industry seems to be fading. Although Danny Mac could have easily stolen the show, as his vocals were surprisingly very good along with a small dancing role (who ever said Strictly Come Dancing was a waste of time?), it was of course Norma Desmond (Ria Jones) who stole the show. Her lavish lifestyle and excessive wealth were made apparent by her luxurious outfits, glittering with so many diamonds the audience were partially blinded when the stage lights bounced off them. However this bravado she hid behind was all an act which she presented to the world and to herself.
The musical was actually more emotional than I thought it was going to be. Underneath the glitz and glamour it’s a tragic story of a woman afraid to be forgotten and in denial about getting older. Sunset Boulevard is a metaphor for her life coming to a finale and the sun setting on her career. Although I did enjoy the show, I do feel like it would be better suited to the older generation as I feel it may be more relatable. The idea of being left behind by the world and losing the beauty which you thought defined you as the person you are is a scary one, however Norma basking in her wealth, refuses to lose this beauty and is in some ways a role model teaching you don’t have to be beautiful to be rule the world! Overall however, Norma as a character is a broken one. She is pitied by the people around her, which she misinterprets as love, yet her personality is so big it drives the play forward and leaves you with a sort of melancholy happiness.
Furthermore, the live orchestra was great! I have attended shows both with and without a live orchestra and I must say I think having the music performed live working with the actors in real time makes a huge difference as an audience member, making you feel more enveloped in the performance allowing you to indulge into it further. In addition, the soundtrack as a whole got a bit repetitive at times, nevertheless the few main ‘show stopper’ tracks carried the play throughout. The way it was performed however was extremely well thought through. Although we didn’t get transported to many different places, it was done in such a way that it almost told a story within a story; a performance revolving around Hollywood itself being performed as if it were being shot in a studio. Thusly, they weren’t afraid to hide any of the setting changes including grand staircases and the inside of an American diner.
Overall though, the story of Norma Desmond was tragic and slightly heart breaking, I left with a smile. Although she inspires us to have ‘new ways to dream’, the irony is clear that we spend much of the play in her dream; a dream of excitement, romance and stardom.