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Sunset Boulevard - A Review







There is one word that captures my thoughts on Sunset Boulevard, playing at The Savoy Theatre... "WOW". The staging, acting, singing, lighting... I am struggling to find a single element to criticise in this truly stunning production.


Sunset Boulevard tells the story of fading Hollywood actress Norma Desmond. We meet a dashing young script writer, Joe Gillis, who encounters the starlet just as she needs someone to help her with her return to the studio. She immediately pounces and Joe finds himself moved in to her opulent mansion to work on a new movie script. While there he is subject to Norma's extremely volatile behaviour and lust for the young man, under the watchful eye of her obsessive security Max. While working at Paramount Pictures he falls in love with the beautiful Betty Schaefer and unfortunately Norma's jealousy takes over and tragedy ensues.



Directed by Jamie Lloyd, this production of Sunset Boulevard stays true to his stark, minimalist style with a dark empty set contrasted by bright white and red lighting and a large screen, with live feed of the onstage actors. I normally dislike onstage cameras, however in this production, it created more dimension, heightening tension, and made every small movement seem much more dramatic. The lack of set, and great use of space really allowed the actors to shine, and helped us further appreciate that Sunset Boulevard is about Norma Desmond and only her.


Playing the seminal role of Norma Desmond is the Olivier nominated Nicole Sherzinger. Elegant and intense, she has a truly stunning voice, effortlessly switching from tender light notes, through to full belt and back within the same breath. Her portrayal of the fading Hollywood actress is a true masterclass as she flirts and frolics with the cameras. There was an audible gasp, stunned silence then rapturous applause, when she sang "With One Look" and a mid-performance standing ovation following "As If We Never Said Goodbye". I had goosebumps throughout. Rachel Tucker (West End Legend) plays Norma Desmond on monday evenings and other selected performances.



Tom Francis plays a confident and witty Joe, his rendition of the titular song is projected on to the huge screen, looping him round the interior dressing rooms, throughout the inner workings of the theatre, even out onto the Strand itself. For any theatre geek, myself included, it was a real behind the scenes treat. His voice has a stunning raspy quality to it, complimenting the innoncence of new talent, Grace Hodgett Young.



The only two criticisms I have of my evening at Sunset Boulevard are not with the show itself, it is the dark theatre beforehand and during the interval. My eyesight is great, god knows what those with any visual impairment could see entering the auditorium or if they could even find their seat. Finally, the Savoy really need to get their finger out and sort their bar areas and customer flow. We couldn't go to the toilet, out of the stalls or get another drink for the second half, as queues to exit were crowded, poorly managed and pretty stressful.


Ultimately, I had a brilliant time at Sunset Boulevard and would recommend it to absolutely everyone. It's simplicity in staging showed off the greatness of the performers and the music. Excellently acted, brilliant singing, wonderful staging, just yourself a favour and go see it! You'd be crazy to miss out on what is, for me, The Show of the Year. It is playing at the Savoy Theatre with performances available until 6th January 2024, tickets available at www.atgtickets.com or your favourite app.




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