Director Nikolai Foster‘s vivid and refreshing take on this Andrew Lloyd Webber musical enhances the feeling of drama and the power of the music.
Based on Billy Wilder’s film and making full use of the beautiful Curve Theatre in Leicester, this concert production of Sunset Boulevard has been exquisitely filmed to make it feel as though it is being exclusively filmed just for you.
Set in Hollywood, with the entertainment industry on its knees, struggling writer Joe Gillis meets the glamorous former Hollywood star Norma Desmond and is commanded to help her work on a new film script around the story of Salome. Of course, not everything is as it appears and story of mental health, obsession and the perils of fame unfold to a tragic climax.
The whole dramatic quality of the story is beautifully drawn out, thanks to Nikolai Foster using the whole of the Curve to create a wonderful haunting atmosphere, particularly during powerful renditions of ‘With One Look’ and ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye’ for example. Other moments that highlights the success of the way in which the production works so well as it does is Norma’s entrance as she gracefully glides down the stairs or when she has her breakdown – it is completely spine tingling.
But I also have to admire the way in which its not just the cast on display. I love the cut away shots to the orchestra who do such a beautiful job of performing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score with much love an attention. Elsewhere seeing the camera teams, cast waiting for their moment on stage are all visible – making it feel as much a tribute to those who work backstage on films and theatre as those on it – a really lovely touch.
The whole production has a distinct 1950’s vibe to it, thanks to Douglas O’Connell’s gorgeously authentic projections and the costumes that really help to highlight Lee Proud’s delicate choreography.
Filmed by Crosscut Media, this is certainly a lavish and understated affair that really picks up on the details of the story and the characters. In particular, I enjoyed the way in which Joe (Danny Mac) draws the audience into his confidence by talking directly at them. There is such a variety of camera shots and angles used that keeps the audience thoroughly engaged and ensures that the focus is always in the right place.
As well as all of this, the performances are all of course equally mesmerising to watch. Ria Jones as Norma offers a really dynamic performance that captures the character’s vulnerability and obsession with great complexity that is always interesting to watch, while Danny Mac offers elegance and charisma as Joe. There is also great support from Adam Pearce as Max, whose rich vocals are extremely distinctive and enjoyable to listen to and Molly Lynch as Betty puts in a lovely vulnerable performance.
This is such a beautiful way of experiencing Sunset Boulevard. While streaming theatre is no replacement for being in a theatre, this production has set the bar even higher for digital theatre.
By Emma Clarendon
Sunset Boulevard in Concert is available to stream via the Curve Theatre until the 17th January.