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Sunset Boulevard at Milton Keynes Theatre

Published by: Alison Smith on 30th Nov 2017 | View all blogs by Alison Smith

By Alison Smith

Sunset Boulevard is not, unlike Phantom of the Opera or Evita, one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most seen and most loved musicals and this is because the plot - the tale of an ageing film star - is not particularly gripping; on Press Night at MK Theatre  there seemed to be little empathy between audience and characters.  What is the plot?  It is simply poverty meets wealth, young meets old, man meets woman and a violent ending .The ending is not tragic because there is no downfall of a great person – rather the death of a gigolo and the madness of a faded movie star.

However the elements within the musical are spectacular - the music, actors , singing and staging. Firstly the music is complex – there are sweeping ballads, powerful solos, nostalgic and amusing numbers and dramatic songs – The Lady’s Paying, The Greatest Star of All, Girl Meets Boy and Too much In Love to Care. The  16 piece orchestra under Adrian Kirk are virtuosos.

As for the actors Ria Jones plays the role of Norma Desmond the ageing star. She makes the part her own and dominates the stage – imperious at times, vulnerable at others but ultimately pathetic.  Her rich vocals are flawless – especially in  As if We Never Said Goodbye - and her depiction of the deluded actress is completely believable.  The young man she shares her life with, for a time, is Joe Gillis, a budding film writer. This part is played confidently by Danny Mac. Mac has two characters to play – the first as the ‘toy boy’ and the second as Betty’s sweetheart. He is excellent in both. His singing in ‘Sunset Boulevard’ in Act 2 – a great improvement by the way on Act 1 – is powerful. But the actor with the most wonderful vocal range is Adam Pearce as the butler/ex-husband, Max. He glides seemingly effortlessly from bass to falsetto, transmitting heartfelt emotion as he does so.

The musical is complex in its staging. A film set transforms into a bar then into Norma Desmond’s dilapidated mansion and vice versa many times. The two main props are a moveable stair case and two flats, the latter useful for the projection of images of film studios and stars throughout the production.

It is a surprising that all these good elements do not make a perfect whole.

 

Sunset Boulevard is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 2nd December.

 

 

www.atgtickets.com

0844 871 7653

Booking fee applies

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