Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s Musical ‘Sunset Boulevard‘ opened in London’s West End in 1993, starring Patti LuPone in the iconic role of Norma Desmond. But before Patti LuPone originated the role in London, Ria Jones had workshopped the production at the Sydenham Festival in 1991 (alongside Michael Ball and Frances Ruffelle).
In 2016, when the show returned to London for a stint at the Coliseum, Glenn Close became sick and Ria Jones performed the role, becoming an overnight phenomenon – when booing audience members (when the announcement was made that Glenn Close would not be performing that evening) gave standing ovations (when her performance ended) – giving her credit for the role she had played twenty-five years before (a little known fact until then).
Off the back of this success, Ria Jones finally became the star she deserved to be, playing the role full-time on the UK Tour of ‘Sunset Boulevard’. Now, a concert version of the production has been filmed at Curve Leicester and released online this Christmas to stream, giving all those around the United Kingdom, the opportunity to watch (in my opinion) one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s greatest works.
Filmed without an audience, this concert version of ‘Sunset Boulevard’ has cleverly used the empty auditorium of the theatre as part of its set – with cameras filming the action, visibly in shot, to help create the ambience of the show being centred around a film production company shooting movies. The filming is top quality and rivals some of the best filmed productions created in 2020 and the direction is superb, really emphasising how crazy the faded film star, Norma Desmond, really was.
All of the cast are wonderful, Ria Jones as Norma Desmond, Danny Mac as Joe Gillis, Molly Lynch as Betty Schaefer, Adam Pearce as Max Von Mayerling, Dougie Carter as Artie Green and Carl Sanderson as Cecil B DeMille.
Whether you have seen this gripping masterpiece of romance, glamour and obsession, live on stage before or not, this online concert version really is a masterpiece that deserves to be seen by everyone.
Watch is online here until 9 January 2021.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Marc Brenner