Sunset Boulevard

Date 20th November 2019
Society Broughty Ferry Amateur Operatic Society
Venue Gardyne Theatre, Dundee
Type of Production Musical
Director Frances Irons
Musical Director Richard Waghorn
Choreographer Frances Irons


Author: Roger D. Buist

This show is a first for this NODA district and tells the story of down-on-his-luck screenwriter, Joe Gillis, who ends up outside the palatial, but dilapidated, mansion on Sunset Boulevard, belonging to Norma Desmond - the "greatest star of all", who ruled the silent film era, but didn't make the transition to sound movies. Both characters are the main protagonists in this tale set in 1949 Hollywood. Technically, the show is a great challenge for any society and, in particular, for the two main players. It is also entirely musically underscored throughout, adding another technical “headache” for these players and the production team! Thus, for the Joe and Norma roles, two very special people are required so, enter into the spotlight, Scott McRuvie and Lynn MacFarlane. Scott, was a faultless Joe Gillis, who never, ever, leaves the stage throughout the show’s entire running time, and was simply superb in his screenwriter role. He was totally in control, at all times, of all his dramatic scenes and he carried off the show’s title song in a strong, musical, and confident manner. In order to achieve all this, he must have the stamina to do so – and he did! Lynn MacFarlane was simply captivating, and utterly astounding, as Norma Desmond, convinced she is still beautiful and in demand as ever with her adoring public. This is one of showbiz’s iconic roles and Lynn’s Norma Desmond was all that it should be. It is a superb, dramatic role to play, because Norma is slowly growing insane and, eventually paranoid, but does not know it. Her musical numbers are Lloyd Webber at his best, and Lynn was capable of performing With One Look and the powerful As If We Never Said Goodbye with great feeling and all in a tremendous, powerful manner. Both the lead players were mesmerising to watch and deserved any Oscars that were going! We must not forget the excellent cast of additional characters to bring this tale alive – and Paul Campbell was the very model of perfection as Norma’s faithful butler/chauffeur, Max, holding a mysterious secret; and, nicely brought to the stage was Joe’s love interest, Betty Schaefer (Kirsten Smith), who was extremely sound and confident in her role and who, sadly, was told to go back to Joe’s friend, Artie, an assured David Newton.  In the studio film world, experienced Graeme Smith carried off the famed film director, Cecil B. DeMille, with great aplomb; and Bruce Martin came over as a strong Sheldrake, a man with a penchant for flowery language! The company was not over-worked, and performed a fine job musically when required, as did the fine orchestra vital to perform at some length (congratulations to them), and the production moved nicely along to reach its dramatic, tragic finale. And how we enjoyed hearing the most “famous” film lines ever uttered - "I am big — it's the pictures that got small!”, plus - “And now, Mr. DeMille, I am ready for my close-up." This was an extremely testing show, but accomplished very successfully!