Jamie Lloyds Sunset Blvd : My thoughts

Jamie Lloyds Sunset Blvd : My thoughts

I went to see Sunday Blvd at the Savoy theatre on Saturday 23rd December 2023. Having heard it was the ‘show of the year’ I had high expectations but beyond that I wasn’t sure what to expect. 

Sunset Blvd tells the story of Norma Desmond (played by Nicole Scherzinger) a celebrity who has had her time to shine but still wants more. She meets writer Joe Gillis (played by Tom Francis) and they develop a new film together; all while Joe is getting caught up relationships with both Norma and Betty Schaefer (played by Grace Hodgett Young). Norma’s obsessive personality gets the better of her and things get very dramatic towards the end.

To start I would like to compliment the casting it was exceptional, I was hesitant on Nicole however she was sensational. Not only were her vocals perfection her acting and performance was so strong, I am routing for her to win an Olivier next year for her performance of Norma. Throughout the performance I fell in love with Grace, a fresh Mountview graduate who has stepped straight into a lead role in the West End, she is set for a successful career. 

The show is presented almost like a silent movie with nearly no set, all monochrome costumes and the use of cameras along with a projection screen. The cameras film close ups of the actors during songs that as an audience we seen behind them on the projection screen. I really enjoyed this feature, it was a rarity to see the actors so close. They also use this feature to show the actors off stage at some points. Act two opens with a live projection of Tom walking around backstage and outside the theatre while singing the title song ‘Sunset Boulevard’. While backstage we see a cardboard cut out of Lloyd-Webber along with Tom admiring a photo of the Pussycat dolls, Nicole’s former group. This whole segment felt very misplaced to me and the 21st century additions felt very cheap, it was a great idea but it didn’t fit for me. 

The lack of costume and set at times was effective but left a lot to the imagination of the audience. Having looked at how Norma was presented in the original productions it is far from the image I had created from watching the performance, understandably it was a more modern take but I felt a little more would have portrayed the character better. The lack of a set makes it hard to understand where conversations etc are taking place which made it very confusing. That being said the lack of set gave great space for the ensemble dancing, the little of it there was. 

Not being an Andrew Lloyd-Webber fan I wasn’t sure I would like the songs and was indeed correct. To me they all seemed very similar, one song I did enjoy was ‘As if we never said Goodbye’, Nicole’s performance was sensational. I will say the music was great at creating tension, I just didn’t enjoy the conversational style of the songs. With this style of song most being solos or duets the ensemble was rarely used, in my opinion the show didn’t really even require an ensemble, the dancing they did was creative but it didn’t really add much to the performance or the story.

One thought I was left with was the vast difference of act one and two. Very little happened in act one, it was almost not needed. It had no tone whereas act two turned very dramatic with a sinister tone which I enjoyed very much. I was almost bored in the first half but the second half was so packed with drama, I feel it should have been more spread out. 

Overall I enjoyed the show but wouldn’t see it again and will certainly not listen to any songs. I really enjoyed the performances of Nicole and Grace and would be very keen to see them in their future roles. Booking tickets for Hadestown is on my to do list! The production is rumoured to be heading to Broadway which I can see being a success despite the differences in theatre across the pond.  

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