Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton. Based on the Billy Wilder Film. Directed by Stephen Pike. Musical direction by Sharon Tree. The Q – Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. October 8 – 25, 2014.

Sunset Boulevard is a challenging musical to stage and it is to the credit and strength of the Q Team that they have chosen this work.

Stephen Pike is a very experienced director and performer and has the ability to get the best out of his cast, which features some very strong actors and singers.  I was particularly taken by the vocal abilities and characterisation that Daniel Wells showed as Joe Gillis. Vanessa De Jager was fantastic as Betty Schaefer and played the role to perfection, to the point where I was looking forward to each scene where she appeared with Daniel Wells. Peter Dark played the part of Max Von Mayerling, the butler and ex-husband, and sang each aria with aplomb.

Bronwyn Sullivan showed every inch of her acting chops with her portrayal of the faded star Norma Desmond. Through her we could see pathos, pride and delusion, while being drawn into Norma’s world of make-believe. She makes a wonderful Norma.

The musical score is unforgiving and has chromatic moments that, while they thrill the audience, are devilish to sing. Kudos to the musical direction and the wonderful ensemble for making “Let’s Have Lunch” and “Every Movie’s a Circus” seem like a walk in the park. The orchestra was generally good, although there was poor intonation showing at different points.

The set was constrained by the depth of the stage and the lack of an orchestra pit, leading to the orchestra being onstage behind the staircase between two principal sets, that of the house on Sunset Boulevard, and a multi-use area of commissary/bar/Paramount Studios and more. Set design was by Brian Sudding, and the scenic artist was Ian Croker. This was supplemented by video design by Hamish McConchie, used sparingly but to great effect to add to the story. The multitude of props were absolutely appropriate to the scenes.

Rachel McGrath-Kerr

Image: Vanessa De Jager as Betty Schaefer and Daniel Wells as Joe Gillis. Photographer: Lauren Sadow

Subscribe to our E-Newsletter, buy our latest print edition or find a Performing Arts book at Book Nook.