Sunset Boulevard (UK Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

Wednesday 11 April 2018

Sunset Boulevard (UK Tour)
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 10th April 2018 by Glenys Balchin

Sunset Boulevard is wonderful musical with great music, amazing performers, awesome staging and lighting and superb costumes and makeup. The atmosphere on opening night was electric and the New Wimbledon theatre provided an iconic setting for this fabulous musical. 

I had my trepidation’s about whether I was going to enjoy Sunset Boulevard. I had seen the film telling the dark tale of the fading Hollywood silent screen goddess trying to make a comeback who gets intwined in a dark world with her young screenwriter and lover; but I doubted how it would work as a musical. How wrong was I to doubt this wonderful operatic music of Andrew Lloyd Webber alongside the brilliant writing and lyrics of Christopher Hampton and Don BlackThe melodramatic film-framework is embellished to bring Sunset Boulevard up to the heights of a Grand Opera.

The entire cast must be congratulated on their performance but in particular Ria Jones who is sensational. Her character interpretation is phenomenal as she becomes Norma Desmond. She engages with the audience immediately as we're drawn into her world of despair and the larger than life dramatisation of sorrow grief of yesteryear. 

To go with that outstanding acting performance is Ria's fantastic voice- how does that voice come from such a diminutive frame!? I have to say I was wondering how Ria would compare with the voraciousness of Gloria Swanson in the 50’s movie, well she did! What’s more-she is every inch a frightening diva; as Norma tumbles into madness in the final scene - “Mr DeMille Lights Cameras” Ria Jones herself has reached the realms of a superstar and I can’t wait to see her in another production.

Moving on to Ria ‘s co-star, Danny Mac, the Strictly Come Dancing finalist really holds his  own against the formidable singing voices of Ria Jones and Adam Pearce. As Danny’s ex strictly judge would say “I didn’t like it I LOVED it” his performance is excellent, enjoyable, energetic, easy on the eye and his rendition of Sunset Boulevard is extraordinary.

Special mention of the fabulous Max, Norma's butler played by Adam Pearce who's voice is astounding and Molly Lynch who gives a mesmerising performance playing sweet Betty.

The scenery is particularly atmospheric. On the top it's fairly simplistic but once you look closer there's a level of complexity which is intrinsic to the whole plot developing. The use of lighting and old films gives you shivers down the spine, as if you are a prisoner in that oppressive mansion yourself.

The costumes capture the Hollywood era perfectly, bringing glitz and glamour. Norma’s flamboyant, elegant and surreal costumes, life and personality really make her one of the most iconic of characters.

Last but not least, praise must go to the orchestra who provide the heartbeat of the musical playing the opulent and lavish musical scores of Andrew Lloyd Webber, which are resounding in my head from last night. The songs provided magical moments bringing the whole show together as the cast performed them pitch perfectly.

I cannot praise this show enough, it was a wonderful experience to watch this truly brilliant cast transfer me to a world of “make believe”. The thing I love about theatre is it's escapism, the world of suspense from reality and when I see a show like this it makes me to want to go more and more. So, if there's one theatre trip you have to do this year, make it Sunset Boulevard!

Sunset Boulevard runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre until April 14th before continuing it's UK Tour. 

photo credit: Manuel Harlan