Yesterday, I was lucky enough to catch Andrew Lloyd Webber’s touring version of Sunset Boulevard on its opening night at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking.
For those of you not familiar with this show it is based on the Billy Wilder film of the same name about faded Silent Screen star Norma Desmond and her relationship with screen writer Joe Gillis who is desperate to make it big in Hollywood by working on the script for her screen comeback.
Colin Richmond’s ingenious set design is beautifully complimented by Douglas O’Connell’s stunning cinematic projections of yester-year Hollywood and even though not your typical set, it carries the audience back to the golden days of the Silver Screen.
Leading Man Joe Gillis was played by the alternate performer DOUGIE CARTER (as Danny Mac was not due to perform in Woking) who brought youthfulness to the role but at times made it feel slightly uncomfortable watching him on stage in the arms of Norma Desmond. However credit where it is due his vocal performance was excellent he seemed to come into his own once the second act had started.
For me the first goosebumps of the evening started with the phenomenal ADAM PEARCE who plays Max Von Mayerling, butler of Norma Desmond, and he almost steals the show with his surprisingly rich voice wracked with feeling and when he delivers his “Secret” I found myself searching for a tissue.
I have seen various Norma Desmonds over the years in different productions and each brings something different to the role, however I have well and truly fallen in love with RIA JONES, Her portrayal blew me away and her voice is absolutely stunning. She carried me on the whole gamut of emotions throughout the show and her stage presence was unbelievable. It is no wonder she garnered such incredible praise when she stood in for Glenn Close who was taken ill during the run at the London Coliseum last year.
Sunset Boulevard is a show that exists almost entirely to let its star blaze to her heart’s content. The light RIA JONES casts is dazzling!
Reviewed by Neil Mcfarlane
Photo: Manuel Harlan