23 December 2020

Sunset Boulevard In Concert At Home - Review

With the COVID pandemic, meaning Curve hasn't been able to welcome audiences into their theatre spaces for over 9 months and their re-opening plans delayed by further restrictions and the Curve team having already adapted the two performances spaces (The Main Stage and The Studio) and created a stunning in the round auditoria, the decision was taken to film and stream the planned concert production of Sunset Boulevard. The result is a remarkable hybrid of theatre and film. 

Danny Mac as Joe Gillis. Photo by Marc Brenner


Huge credit must go to Nikolai Foster and all the Curve crew who transformed the space in the first place, and with the help of a stage revolve that was kindly donated to the theatre by Cameron Mackintosh. Without the audience in the space, the use of the whole auditoria is fantastic and really shows what a great space Curve is. 

Right from the Hollywood-esque opening credits and the striking up of the orchestra this concert staging is a joy to behold. That 16 piece orchestra under the musical direction of Chris Mundy is the largest used by any production in the UK since the pandemic began. The sound they make is breathtaking, breathing new life into the score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and into the largely empty theatre. The songs with lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton are a joy for the ears.

Visually this production is faultless. The camera adds a new dimension to the drama especially in the scenes between Norma and Joe. The team at Crosscut Media have captured the show exquisitely. Taking the action all around the theatre auditoria is a genius idea. It creates striking visuals of the socially distanced adapted space. There are some great shots of Norma from the Circle, particularly ones at the end of both acts.

Ria Jones as Norma Desmond. Photo by Marc Brenner


Nikolai Foster's direction really lets the drama play out well and he's backed by a brilliant creative team. Colin Richmond's design is stunning. There's no set as such but the costumes are gorgeous, especially the gown's worn by Norma. Ben Cracknell's lighting design is fantastic, adding another layer of dimension that is captured really well through the lens. Tom Marshall's sound design is strong. Lee Proud's clever choreography is performed well.

The production reunites the cast of the 2017 Award-winning production. Ria Jones returns as Norma Desmond and she captures every single emotion of the character perfectly. Her maddening eyes and ultimate sad demise really hits home with Ria giving a masterclass in performance in every moment. Her renditions of 'With One Look' and 'As If We Never Said Goodbye' are deeply moving. Danny Mac oozes charm as Joe Gillis, he is at real ease with the role and interacts brilliantly with Ria's Norma. His strong vocals pack a punch too especially in the title number. 

Adam Pearce does a fine job in the role of Max Von Mayerling. His deep booming vocals are great to hear. He is a looming figure with a really likeable presence. Adam brings out the character warmth really well especially when Max tries to keep Norma believing her fans are still there for her by forging fan mail letters. Molly Lynch's gives a beautiful turn as Betty Schaefer who ultimately is shafted by Joe. 

Molly Lynch as Betty Schaefer and Danny Mac as Joe Gillis. Photo by Marc Brenner


There are good supporting performances by Carl Sanderson as Cecil B. DeMille, Dougie Carter as Artie Green and Kristoffer Hellstrรถm as Sheldrake but the entire cast give their all to the production. Lovely voices and great movement mean the ensemble numbers hit all the right notes. 

The story is somewhat poetic with the sad demise of theatre this tough year but unlike Norma's ultimate fate theatres WILL rise again. This at-home concert version of Sunset Boulevard has the potential to be a real game-changer of how filmed theatre is captured. It's a technical marvel in how to capture a show. This is right up there with the best theatre of the year.

Let's hope it's not long till audiences are back in the Curve auditorium (and auditoriums up and down the country) and themselves feeling like it's 'As If We Never Said Goodbye'. Powerful, breathtaking and astonishing theatre. Unmissable.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sunset Boulevard in Concert streams from Curve until Saturday 9th January with various performance times. For more details and to book tickets visit www.curveonline.co.uk/

The company of Sunset Boulevard. Photo by Marc Brenner


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