Sunset Boulevard – London Coliseum
Sometimes when you get an invitation to something so hotly anticipated and billed as being the theatrical event of the year (when it’s only just turned April) you feel sadly cheated. However it is with immense pleasure that I can say on this occasion this production delivered, on every single level in spades!
The story of Norma Desmond faded, silent-screen goddess lives in a fantasy world in her mansion on Sunset Boulevard. Impoverished screen writer, Joe Gillis, on the run from debt collectors, stumbles into her reclusive world. Persuaded to work on Norma’s ‘masterpiece’, a film script that she believes will put her back in front of the cameras, he is seduced by her and her luxurious life-style. Joe becomes entrapped in a claustrophobic world until his love for another woman leads him to try and break free with dramatic consequences.
Lonny Price directs the strictly limited run of 43 performances at ENO’s London Coliseum which runs until 7 May 2016. The full ENO orchestra appear on stage alongside the cast in this semi-staged production. Orchestrations are by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber with choreography by Stephen Mear, set designs by James Noone, costume designs by Tracy Christensen, Glenn Close’s costumes designs by Anthony Powell, sound by Mick Potter and lighting by Mark Henderson. Musical Director is Michael Reed who also conducts.
Whilst it is Glenn Close‘s West End Debut she is in fact reprising the role that she has previously played and which was highly revered on Broadway, earning her a much coveted Tony Award. From the very first opening notes of the sixty plus strong orchestra to the closing, this is a production which oozes class, sophistication and talent in epic proportions.
Michael Xavier plays Joe Gilles his voice and acting never in doubt, he gives a truly phenomenal performance. His sadly doomed love interest Siobhan Dillon (Betty Schaefer) has a simply beautiful voice and is more than equally matched to Xavier.
I really could write about every single person on the stage, there isn’t a cast member who doesn’t merit their name in lights, but in order to retain your interest on this I’ll just make comment on a couple more. Fred Johanson (Max Von Mayerling) whom we learn, whilst now being Desmond’s butler, confidant and personal assistant, was originally actually her first husband. His love for her so deep that he is prepared to do just about anything to protect her. Johanson’s powerful, amazingly deep voice is simply perfect. Haydn Oakley (Artie Green), Julian Forsyth (Cecil B. DeMille) and Mark Goldthorp (Sheldrake) amongst others, impressed me immensely.
This production is said to be “semi-staged” however the sumptuous costume designs by Tracy Christensen, with Glenn Close’s costumes designed by Anthony Powell compensate magnificently against the stark backdrop of the metal stairs. Stephen Mear‘s choreography was genius and used every aspect to achieve this perfect creation and complimented Lonny Price‘s sublime direction. I personally loved this “semi-staged” effect, as the stripped back setting showcased the incredible orchestra who were on the stage and of course the immense talent in front of them. Nothing detracted from the utterly mesmerising performances. There were a couple of technical points, which didn’t quite work for me but with a show this outstanding and heavenly, these can be forgiven.
However the evening has to be given to Ms Close who exceeded all my expectations and was every ounce the Hollywood star she is. Charisma, dramatisation, characterisation, timing and delivery were all outstandingly perfect. We witnessed Ms Close give the performance of her life tonight and I’d urge if you haven’t booked then do so. Which brings me onto the reason I was there. The kind people at BoxOfficeUK asked me to review this show for them, which I was delighted to do so. You can book via their site with this or the above Booking Link, thank you so much for asking me to cover this, as it was an experience I’ll never forget.
So were the posters right is this the “theatrical event of 2016” well there are many amazing openings to come this year but I have to say in my honest opinion I doubt that they will outshine this jaw-dropper of a show, which is simply perfection personified.