Sunset Boulevard

3
Seen at the Savoy Theatre
By Derek - 6th Oct 2023

Jamie Lloyd directs his concept version of Sunset Boulevard at the Savoy Theatre. Unfortunately, I hated the concept. I was fine with the idea that everything should be black and white, with a bare black stage and mutiple lights to hark back to the old movie days. Not sure about the steady-cams being projected onto a stage sized screen - performers having to act in TV style and for full stage gives an uneasy mix. And it became too much of a gimmick. Having Tom Francis (Joe) run through the theatre and around the outside added nothing, in fact as he sang that LA had changed while passing Savoy and show signage it took away from the setting. And careful product placement of the Jamie Lloyd mug was offputting. We had many songs delivered static positions at the front of the stage, many from exactly the same place.

The performers did a reasonable job, but Norma and Max need to be older. Changing Joe's line to criticise Norma for being 40 playing 20 simply makes it ridiculous. Nicole Scherzinger sells her songs with ease and sheer quality, and shows she is a lithe mover too. Tom Francis is convincing as Joe Gillis and Grace Hodgett Young is engaging as Betty Schaefer. David Thaxton evinces great sympathy as Max Von Mayerling. The rest of the cast work hard, but their crowd scenes seemed to jar with the idea behind the rest of the production. Choreography in musicals is often idiosyncratic, but here it seemed to be wedged in to allow some physical release from the static principal scenes. There is a lot of running around the stage, particularly towards the climax as Betty heads for Norma's house for the confrontation. But Andrew Lloyd Webber had written a wodge of music, so they had to find some action to fill it.

The use of the young Norma was a delight, and the use of the steady-cams to contrast younger and older was very effective. As was Norma's recognition of Hawkeye, the spotlight man and her subsequent illumination in startling light - its the most arresting image of the show.

In effect, this seems like a concert performance with little theatrical interest. If you love Nicole Scherzinger, you'll have a great time. If you like a fully fleshed drama, you may be disappointed.

Derek Benfield


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