Sunset Boulevard

Date 29th October 2015
Society Three Towns Theatre Company
Venue The Brook Theatre, Chatham
Type of Production Musical
Director Samantha Grace
Musical Director Martyn Clements

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Author: Doreen Grierson for Gordon Harris

Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s 1993 stage adaption of Billy Wilder’s 1950’s classic black and white film follows the story-line of down-on-his-luck screenwriter Joe Gillis, who calls at the mansion of the once famous silent movie star, Norma Desmond. She is a woman who doesn’t accept that her movie career is over and seduces Joe, both by her money and herself, to complete a script that will re- launch her career. It doesn’t end well.

A few sound problems beleaguered the opening scenes on the first night, but as the show progressed those problems seemed to rectify themselves. The sets were very simple but the setting of Norma’s house at the back of the stage was excellent. Costumes, on the whole, were good but if this was meant to be set in the 1950’s I am sure that hemlines above the knees were not apparent then! This was difficult music to master and I felt that some of the principles struggled with the vocal range, having said that, they coped really well. The animated chorus, always a delight. The orchestra, conducted by Martyn Clements, played the moving score with sensitivity (after they toned down a bit!).

Richard Sutehall as Joe was able to bring his character to life and you weren’t sure whether to pity him or despise him. Gwyneth Loft as Norma in her glittery costumes, was able to portray the fragility of a woman protected from reality by her ex-husband, and now butler, Max, finely played by Geoff Coote. Joe’s other love interest was Betty (excellently portrayed and sung by Kayleigh Reader) but when Norma finds out, threatens suicide. Joe decides to leave Norma and her mansion but this ends in tragedy with the deluded Norma commanding the stage, still convinced she is a star.

The many other smaller parts, were all essential both in singing and acting, to add to the cohesiveness of the show. Director Samantha Grace and her team deserve congratulations for this memorable production.