Sunset Boulevard Reviewed

Sunset Boulevard by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Black & Christopher Hampton

Review by: Paul Towers, 28/9/17

Photos: Manuel Harlan

Curve, Michael Harrison and David Ian co-production directed by Nikolai Foster

Curve 16 until 30 September 2017

'a spectacular production.'

In 1950 Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett wrote a searingly black noir masterpiece about a faded silent movie star, Norma Desmond, trying desperately to resurrect her career. It starred Gloria Swanson, a faded silent movie star desperately trying to resurrect her career, and William Holden as the rookie screenwriter she ensnares in her fantasy world.

Sunset BoulevardIn 1993 Don Black, Christopher Hampton and Andrew Lloyd Webber created the ultimate Hollywood musical homage after numerous others had failed to bring it to the stage. In a delicious synchronicity Ria Jones, the original Norma Desmond at Lloyd Webber's famous Sydmonton festival tryout of the score, is now starring in Curve's spectacular production, the first UK touring revival since 2002.

The set, designed by Colin Richmond, is very versatile and contains, of course, a Curve signature sweeping staircase. In this case a 3-parter that swirls around to portray all sorts of locations. Creative use of film and back production even creates a realistic car chase!

A hard working ensemble backs up the featured roles.

Sunset BoulevardAdam Pearce as Max Von Meyerling babysits Norma Desmond through her various dramas. Holly Lynch as Betty Schaefer prettily pulls at Joe Gillis' heart strings. As Gillis Strictly heart-throb Danny Mac sings up a storm and tangos across the stage with aplomb. To several gasps around me he walked out of the swimming pool in the second half showing off his 6-pack to good effect. The girl next to me was heard to mutter 'I'm mad about the boy'.

Sunset Boulevard is a story about a deluded and, ultimately, demented silent movie star. Andrew Lloyd Webber's score demands a very strong singer with a dramatic texture to her voice. Whether she was just having an off night or she is mis-cast Ria Jones' voice was not up to the job tonight. Despite a strong start in her first number it didn't last and the minute she tried to put any power behind her singing she sounded like a granny doing a party piece at Christmas, tremulously on key but without any oomph.

Sunset Boulevard is at Curve until 30th September and then tours right through the New Year. Details at

Paul Towers: