Fresh from receiving the Best Regional Production at the What’s On Stage awards on Sunday night Sunset Boulevard was warmly welcomed on a cold night in Cardiff.
The musical centres around an impoverished screen writer Joe Gillis who, while on the run from debt collectors, stumbles into faded silent-screen goddess Norma Desmond’s reclusive world and is seduced by her and her luxurious lifestyle. As the story unravels in her mansion on Sunset Boulevard, it becomes clear that she lives in a fantasy world. Joe becomes trapped in a claustrophobic world until his love for another woman leads him to try and break free, with dramatic consequences.
Ria Jones seems perfectly cast as Norma Desmond, playing the character with an empathy that made the audience fall in love her, especially when she sings.
I loved Danny Mac as Joe Gillis and his performance is the glue that holds the production together. I’m not sure if he comes off stage at all during the entire performance. He plays Joe with the right amount of suaveness needed to believe that he would take advantage of Norma but also with an empathy that shows you that he was feeling trapped in their relationship.
Adam Pearce as Max Von Meyerling stole the show for me. He just needed to come on to the stage and you never knew what was going to come out of his mouth next. Through the show his character makes small revelations, each one building to a complex character that you never expected him to be.
With the constantly changing set. The scenes seamlessly moved from film studio to grand mansion generally during a song not giving the audience much time to show their appreciation at the end of scene. The first half ended with The Perfect Year, which was a good example of a swift change of scenery, flowing from a mansion party to the party at Schwab’s Drugstore.
Finally a mention for the use of projection on the set, which is not something I usually enjoy but in Sunset Boulevard it is outstanding adding a depth to the set and creating extra details that pulled the scenes together, my favourite was the use of a road video to creating moving traffic through the windows of Schwab’s Drugstore.