Wednesday, 17 August 2005

Sunset Boulevard, The Production Company, Aug 17, 2005

 Sunset Boulevard 
Music by Andrew Lloyd  Webber  Lyrics and Book  Don Black and Christopher Hampton 
The Production Company
State Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, August 17 to 20, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 17, 2005

The spectacle of the luxurious mansion and glittering lights of Hollywood may be missing from this concert production of Sunset Boulevard, but the harsh view of the self-centred wannabees is present.

Director, Wayne Harrison, focuses successfully on Lloyd Webber's music, the voices and the relationships between these profoundly self-centred characters.

Judi Connelli's big cabaret voice fills the State Theatre with the overwhelming and controlling personality of the faded silent movie star, Norma Desmond.

When she sings Surrender, we believe Norma will never surrender her claim to fame and adulation. During With One Look we see vividly Norma's obsession with her own silent movie image.

Joe Gillis, the dashing, down-at-heel screenwriter and gigolo played by David Campbell, is acquisitive and almost as manipulative as Norma herself. His voice is true and resonant and he makes Joe's cynicism palpable in a stirring rendition of the title song, Sunset Boulevard.

"Now I have suits and she has hope, " he sings. The story and lyrics are relentlessly critical of the Hollywood culture of the 1940s.

Roger Howell's magnificent, rich baritone and still presence bring great dignity to the role of Max Von Mayerling, Norma's devoted butler, minder and ex-husband. He sings with warmth and passion, The Greatest Star of All and New Ways To  Dream.

Chelsea Plumley brings a cheeky quality and bright voice to the ingenue, Betty Schaefer, Joe's love interest and an aspiring writer.

The chorus provides a fine supporting cast of wannabee writers, actors, singers and producers. Their rousing opening number, Let's Have Lunch, and The Perfect Year, both capture the quality of Billy Wilder's unpleasant Hollywood.

Harrison keeps the action moving swiftly and a simple design of three movable screen by Richard Jeziorny provide a sense of location. The car chase with miniature cars was a very entertaining addition.

The orchestra, conducted by Peter Casey, provides the foundation for the production with a strong and rich quality of sound.

Sunset Boulevard is an expansive and cynical story that is well-served by Lloyd Webber's powerful music and by the intelligent and witty lyrics by Christopher Hampton and Don Black.

It makes one crave a full production of the show again.

By Kate Herbert

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