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Sunset Boulevard at the Edinburgh Playhouse

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 5th Oct 2017 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

With all the glamour and melodrama of a bygone age, Sunset Boulevard played to impromptu cheers and a standing ovation from an ecstatic Edinburgh audience on opening night.

And in the centre of it all was Ria Jones, who memorably took over from Glenn Close in London’s West End production and has now made the role of tragic Norma Desmond all her own.

Every inch as charismatic as any big Hollywood star, this Welsh songstress movingly brings to life the faded silent screen actress who returns to Paramount Pictures, where she was once ‘queen of the lot’, with horrific consequences.

It’s a performance which holds me spellbound, from her first glamorous entrance down a sweeping staircase to her cackling descent into madness. It is something of a shock when Jones takes her curtain calls for she seems so young and small compared to the character she plays. In one of the scenes when someone says, ‘You used to be big’, Norma Desmond retorts, ‘I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.’ Well, what with her stage presence and soaring voice, everything around Ria Jones seems small by comparison. It’s not just with one look that this production is a triumph. But she is not alone in making it so.

When Adam Pearce, as Max, her stiff, expressionless butler, comes on the scene, he reminds me of Lurch in the Addams Family movie, but his singing voice is extraordinary; rich and deep for the most part but with such an incredible range it leaves me open-mouthed.

Sunset Boulevard is very much like an opera, with performances worthy of any opera house… though you don’t get many opera singers with the matinee idol looks of Danny Mac (who, incidentally, gets to demonstrate his Strictly Come Dancing skills) as the object of Norma Desmond’s desires.

Some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s numbers bring me in mind of The Phantom of the Opera – in fact, the stories aren’t that dissimilar. Both have damaged leading characters who haunt performances spaces – in Sunset Boulevard, Paramount Pictures’  Stage 18 is an interesting montage of vintage spotlights and cameras against a backdrop of old black and white movies, courtesy of Colin Richmond, who also designed the sumptuous costumes.

But there are some really upbeat numbers which shout ‘musical’, such as New Year Tango, and, of course, such well known songs as The Greatest Star of All and The Perfect Year. On my way home a young girl passed me in the street singing them…

Sunset Boulevard is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until Oct 7.

www.atgtickets.com/edinburgh

 

Box office: 0844 871 3014

Comments

1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 1 month ago
    Thanks, Clare. Lovely review. Great to have you in Edinburgh.
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