It is very rare these days to see musicals on tour that  deliver five star excellence from  both the cast and creatives, but Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Sunset Boulevard at The Alhambra this week certainly does that.

Based on American filmmaker Billy Wilder’s 1950’s award winning film, it tells the story of Norma Desmond, a faded star of silent films, who has become a recluse in her once spectacular mansion on Sunset Boulevard. She meets a down-on-his-luck screen writer, Joe Gillis, who sees an opportunity to solve his financial problems by offering to help her with a script she is writing. Their evolving relationship sets them on a course towards jealousy, insanity and murder.

Nikolai Foster’s production is seamless and  visually spectacular evoking  vintage Hollywood glamour with film clips, high platforms and staircases that just glide across the stage changing the location and  an ingenious mix of cinematic and mood lighting. Add to this Adrian Kirk’s brilliant control of the 16 piece orchestra and you have a theatrical triumph in the making.

But its Ria Jones as Norma who drives Sunset Boulevard . Playing Norma in a try out at Webber’s private Sydmonton Festival  26 years ago, she has waited all this time to finally make the role her own. Jones has an unbelievable stage presence, a brilliant range of convincing emotions and a rich controlled voice that  brings the house down  with ‘As If We Ever Say Goodbye’ and ‘With One Look’.

Hardly ever off stage Danny Mac’s Joe is charismatic and believable. He sings effortlessly and dances, as you’d expect a strictly star to. But it’s Adam Pearce’s Max, the butler that surprises with his amazing vocal range and talent and brilliant characterization.

There’s a plethora of supporting and cameo roles that each make their own mark in the story whilst singing, dancing, trebling up and moving props and scenery that make this show pure gold.

Standing ovations are often given to shows that are not worthy of them but Sunset Boulevard was more than worthy of this theatrical custom. I am sure the first night standing ovation will be repeated at every performance for this is the very best of the very best touring productions that the Alhambra has staged.

Runs till Sat 10 February.

Liz Coggins is a member of The Critics Circle

You must be logged in to post a comment Login