Christopher Walker reviews Sunset Boulevard

Think you know Sunset Boulevard. Well think again.

The production at the cramped Savoy theatre reimagined by Jamie Lloyd “for a new generation” is one hell of a gut punch.

It’s thirty years since Andrew Lloyd Webber turned the iconic cult movie into a musical.

The story of a young writer who stumbles into the make-believe world of a faded Hollywood superstar, Norma Desmond, is first class source material.

Sunset Boulevard. Tom Francis (Joe Gillis) & Nicole Scherzinger (Norma Desmond).

Traditionally it has been a vehicle for well-established older stars not always with great voices, such as Glen Close.

Take that tradition and stand it on its head.

In Lloyd’s new production, Nicole Scherzinger, Star of the Pussycat Dolls, grabs the role with both hands.

Her voice is quite fabulous, and although she may be over 40 she looks years younger.

David Thaxton (Max Von Mayerling) & cast of Sunset Boulevard

The writer, Joe Gillis, is played by the very hunky Tom Francis, and the Director loses no opportunity to have him remove his clothes.

All of this is quite a shock, though it does make the subplot of Joe falling for a studio hack Bettie Schafer, rather unbelievable.

The girl who sang “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me” outguns her.

Indeed all of Joe’s “friends of his own age” are rather a rag tale bunch in ill-fitting clothes, and I would not have left Ms. Desmond’s side for a minute.

Max Von Mayerling, Norma’s sinister butler is here played well by David Thaxton.

Sunset Boulevard. Nicole Scherzinger (Norma Desmond)

He also has a great voice, and is suitably scary when blown up on a large video screen.

Indeed, the use of video cameras is a real innovation by Lloyd, and one that works well given the piece’s theme.

The immortal line “I’m ready for my close-up” has real meaning here. Scherzinger turns the camp dial up to maximum.

There is zero set. I rather missed the gothic horror of the Sunset Boulevard mansion, and you need to know the movie to follow things.

I can only assume Lloyd blew the budget on Ms. Scherzinger, and on Tom’s gym sessions.

It was worth it. A must-see theatrical experience.



Picture: Sunset Boulevard. Nicole Scherzinger (Norma Desmond). Photo credits: Marc Brenner

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