By midlandsmovies, Sep 29 2017 11:18AM
Lights! Camera! Action! With The Shawshank Redemption, The Graduate and Grease, Leicester’s Curve Theatre is already a regional hub for brilliantly realised stage versions of some of the world’s most classic films. And tonight was no exception as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s infamous 1993 musical Sunset Boulevard (itself based around Billy Wilder’s 1950 Oscar winning noir classic) debuted in Leicester.
The musical matches the film’s narrative closely where struggling Hollywood screenwriter Joe Gillis (Hollyoaks and Strictly Come Dancing star Danny Mac) escapes his debtors and winds up re-writing the atrocious script of faded silent-movie star Norma Desmond. Desmond is played by Welsh West End stage star Ria Jones and boy does she deserve her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The show opens with a bang as a full chorus explodes onto the stage with "Let's Have Lunch" which immediately whisks us into the old glamour of a bygone movie era from The Paramount production company archway to sleazy journalists, loud-mouth directors and Hollywood hopefuls.
Mac is superb as the witty writer, doing what he has to do to survive and his American style delivery is boastful yet classic at once. However, much like Norma herself, the show centres around Ria Jones but unlike the deluded and self-absorbed house-bound harridan, this starlet shines bright every time she takes the stage.
The times she is not front and centre, the play still fully delivers with the wry clothes-swapping "The Lady's Paying" being a comedy delight whilst Molly Lynch as Betty Schaefer holds her own as the lovelorn film company script-reader. Her note perfect high-pitched duet on “Girl Meets Boy” played softly against the harsher dynamics of Joe and Norma’s tempestuous turns.
The technical playing of the musical’s tunes was the show’s biggest-kept secret accomplishment. Once the curtain fell an eager Leicester crowd gathered near the orchestral pit to give specific congratulations to the fantastic (and unsung) players of the night and fully deserved it was too with the sweeping score moving from bombastic to gentle without fault.
Director Nikolai Foster kept the play moving fast and choreographer Lee Proud mixed show tune flamboyancy with tiny touches (the movement of a wine bottle past almost unnoticed between three separate characters in seconds) and that level of detail is why the 2-hour plus performance flew by joyously.
With the amazing music and Jones’ impeccable delivery, the theatre was alight with talent and the props and their unique usage became key to understanding the show’s Los Angeles locations. The staircase in Desmond’s mansion became the focus of a power-dynamic with her dominating presence looming over Mac’s Joe Gillis. As she descends her ‘stairway to Hollywood heaven’, Desmond comes back to earth with the faintest glimpses of reality peeking in behind her foolish belief of a successful return to the screen.
But finally, with all the components working perfectly with each other, Jones delivered the film’s infamous “I’m ready for my close-up” line and along with her note-holding final song, the theatre erupted into a more than deserved standing ovation. Far from a silent success, this new take on Sunset Boulevard should be sung from the Hollywood hills with its beautiful gift of glamour and glitz.
Midlands Movies Mike