Based on the 1950 blockbuster Sunset Boulevard tells the desperate story of the fading Hollywood star Norma Desmond and is considered to be one of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s finest musical achievements. With this in mind, WBOS delivers the compelling tale with confidence, and showcases some of the best local talent around.
The show opens with aspiring screenwriter Joe Gillis, played by Leon Davies, working the studio circuit in an attempt to get hired, and trying his best to stay out of trouble. Taking refuge in the ground of a great house he stumbles into the eccentric world of former starlet Norma Desmond, played by Sarah Moors, and it doesn’t take long until influence and circumstance fast forward their casual liaison into something more contrived.
The two give stellar individual performances, with Moors portraying the oddball vulnerability of Norma perfectly against Davies’ charming, opportunistic but ultimately commendable Joe. The chemistry develops with the narrative and flashes moments of brilliance, particularly with the power struggle and shifting dynamic of their relationship – a credit to the direction of Jason Capewell. They make an engaging duo, but equally hold their own with seriously impressive solo vocals and stage presence.
Equally, Olivia Jones commands the stage as Betty Schaefer, Joe’s writing progeny and Norma’s rival for his heart. Presented with purpose and poise, the real shame is that there was not more time in the script to allow for the developing romance with Joe to play a bigger part, and allow Jones and her glorious voice more of the spotlight.
Special mention must go to Tim Jones as the long-suffering Max who provided real humanity in the Hollywood spectacle that surrounded him, and whose rich vocals lent themselves beautifully to his heartfelt solo pieces.
The chorus too should be commended, with well-developed characters, their individual turns showcased their natural talent. The collective vocals were much stronger than what you would expect of an am dram ensemble: a credit to the cast but also in no small part to the MD James Maddison, it would be assumed. Claire Flavell’s choreography was interesting and supported the narrative, with particular highlights being Nicholas Sullivan and the marvellous twirling tailors in The Lady’s Paying, and the ruthless Consultant’s in A Little Suffering.
WBOS took a risk with this ambitious and challenging show, and despite a few technical glitches (handled by the cast without a flinch) it was certainly one that paid off. With the show licensed to only a few societies across the county for a very limited run you’d have to be mad to miss this blockbuster show – get down to Sunset Boulevard, if you still can.
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