Sunset Boulevard at Birmingham Hippodrome

by Julie Wallis

Sunset Boulevard at Birmingham Hippodrome

Sunset Boulevard is at Birmingham Hippodrome until 18th November. Book & lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton and music composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The story takes place in Hollywood in the mid twentieth century. Joe Gillis (Danny Mac) is trying to outsmart the bailiffs who are trying to repossess his car. He pulls the car onto a driveway on Sunset Boulevard, the home of Norma Desmond (Ria Jones), a faded silent movie star. Norma thinks she is still big in Hollywood, and doesn’t realise all her fan mail is written by her faithful man servant Max (Adam Pearce). Norma shows Joe, a down on his luck screenwriter, her screenplay that she has been writing and asks him for his help in getting it made into a movie. As time goes by Joe realises he is virtually being held prisoner…

SUNSET BOULEVARD. Ria Jones ‘Norma Desmond’ and Company. Photo by Manuel Harlan

I loved everything about Sunset Boulevard. Everything! The story is touching, it is a tragedy, have your tissues ready. I shed a tear or two.. ok… I admit I cried like a baby not just at the ending, but the music, it’s all very moving.

The songs are beautiful and include The Perfect Year, With One Look and As If We Never Said Goodbye.

The acting was perfect, it helps that the characters are all entirely believable. Betty is a cute, Joe is handsome and together they make a sweet couple. Norma is a tragic figure with a big personality and an even bigger bodyguard in her faithful and loyal Max. Whilst Max offers Norma the kind of devotion normally only offered by a dog. Max loves, protects, obeys and instead of retrieving sticks or balls he fakes fan mail because all he is wants is for his mistress to be happy.

I loved the big scenes when the stage was full of actors as no matter where you looked, something was happening. Danny Mac has a great accent and sounds like Leonardo DiCaprio throughout.

The lighting is phenomenal and once again perfectly captures moments and moods so much better than anything else ever can.

The sets are magical, switching from Norma’s impressive mansion to the gates of Paramount Studios to a car chase to Schwabs drugstore whilst all the time maintaining a theatrical reality.

SUNSET BOULEVARD. Molly Lynch 'Betty Schaefer' and Danny Mac 'Joe Gillis'. Photo Manuel Harlan
SUNSET BOULEVARD. Molly Lynch ‘Betty Schaefer’ and Danny Mac ‘Joe Gillis’. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Finally the singing…. oh the singing, I don’t think there is adjective that can adequately describe the singing. Danny Mac as Joe Gillis and Molly Lynch as Betty Schaefer both have beautiful voices, Adam Pearce as Max Von Meyerling has a shockingly deep voice when he sings.

Ria Jones as Norma Desmond has the most beautiful and perfect voice I have ever heard, and this is where I struggle to find the adjective. I could say phenomenal, beautiful, stunning, breathtaking and as true as they all are they just do not do justice to the power and the crystal clear clarity of Ms Jones voice.

SUNSET BOULEVARD. Danny Mac 'Joe Gillis', Ria Jones 'Norma Desmond' and Adam Pearce 'Max Von Meyerling'. Photo Manuel Harlan
Danny Mac ‘Joe Gillis’, Ria Jones ‘Norma Desmond’ and Adam Pearce ‘Max Von Meyerling’. Photo by Manuel Harlan.jpg

Last night the Birmingham Hippodrome was almost full and I know from previous visits that a full or almost full house mid week means the show I’m at is going to be great and I was right.

Sunset Boulevard ended with a well deserved standing ovation and I left knowing I had just watched something incredibly special.

Sunset Boulevard is at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 18th November:

Julie was invited to see Sunset Boulevard for #BrumHour by Birmingham Hippodrome. She was very giddy! This isn’t a sponsored post.