Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical spectacular, Sunset Boulevard, has made a sensational return to the stage at the London Coliseum. With only a 5 week run, it has already been tipped as being the theatre event of the year… and it’s only April!!
I must say, this is one production I have been waiting in high anticipation for as Glenn Close reprises her Tony Award-winning role as Norma Desmond in her West End debut. Norma was a siren of the silver screen now an aging reclusive, living a life of loneliness and delusion in her Boulevard mansion but still yearning for her glory days.
One day, struggling writer Joe Gillis (Michael Xavier) turns up on her doorstep, running away from the financial trouble he’s in when he gets taken in by Norma, who faced with a dashing young man becomes infatuated with him. Grieving the loss of her glittering career, Gillis fulfils a need for love that begins to turn into something darker with a tragic end.
This dramatic tale seduces the audience with Lloyd Webber’s exquisite score, it has all the spellbinding melodies iconic to Webbers’ musicals, which are delivered by the ENO’s acclaimed orchestra who are presented centre stage in this grand theatrical space. Everything about Director Lonny Prices’ revival oozes glamour despite being semi-set, the glistening chandeliers in Norma’s palatial home, the grand towering staircases, even Glenn Close is dripping in jewels as she literally dazzles, twinkling with diamonds.
Close is an absolute icon and it’s an awe-stuck moment to simply see her on stage. She commands a phenomenal presence and I couldn’t imagine anyone being able to capture Norma the way she does. The songs are some of the most iconic in musical theatre and Close soars with the magnificent crescendos. She’s a little shaky in places but despite that she is a star to behold and ‘As If Never Said Goodbye’ was completely spine-tingly and sweeps you away.
In great support is the equally talented Michael Xavier, whose musical reputation is undeniable and he shines as impoverished writer Joe Gillis. The second act opens with the title song ‘Sunset Boulevard’ sung with a real foreboding as the resentment begins to creep in Gillis and Xavier leaves you in no question of his celebrated brilliance.
One final acknowledgment must go to the outstanding ENO orchestra led by Michael Reed, who really bring this tale to life with the elegant music and essence of the silver screen with Hollywood brass and fifties charm. The overture is as gorgeous as to nearly rival Gypsy’s.
The anticipation is justified as Sunset Boulevard delivers on every level firmly positioning this compelling musical into the realm of the greats. An absolute must-see, exquisite and entrancing throughout – this may just be the perfect year.
(Photo courtesy of Richard Hubert Smith)