Los Angeles is home to celebrities and wannabe celebrities who travel from all over the world in hopes of becoming a star. “Sunset Boulevard”, a hit movie in 1950, turned into a musical, revolves around a faded film star, Norma Desmond, of the silent screen era (remember the movie the “Artist?”, yes similar to that man) who lives in a mansion in Los Angeles. Joe Gillis, a young screenwriter, accidentally shows up at her home and she coaxes him in to stay with her in an attempt to help her make a comeback. There is a strong darkness that hovers over the show. In 1994 it graced the Broadway stage and won seven Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical. Why then when I left the theater was I questioning why I didn’t have had an ounce of emotional investment in the characters, music and overall show? Minneapolis Musical Theatre’s mission is to provide community access to high quality, yet affordable works of musical theatre never before – or very rarely – seen by Twin Cities audiences. I for one was unfamiliar with the movie and musical. For me, the show just was.
With her wide mouth, annunciation, beaming eyes and somewhat annoying tone, Sarah Gibson did a nice job embodying the kookoo character, Norma. Tim Kuehl who played Joe seemed a bit intimidated on stage and frumpy. I was hoping he would be more powerful and give his songs more oomph. Aly Westberg (Betty Schaefer) was the standout of the show which was acknowledged by the audience during the applause. Her big smile, lovely vocal transitions and emotional facial expressions set her apart from the rest of the cast.
The costumes and hair were perfect for the era of the show. During the second act a man behind me said aloud “Costume number 453” when Norma walked on stage. It was silly but true. She did have many elaborate costume changes. The women wore below the knee skirts and dresses, which matched, with pin curled hair, was quite lovely. The ensemble numbers were my favorite due to their well meshed harmonies. However, the solo songs had many odd transitions in the music which was hard to deal with after a while.
There were multiple nail biting and cringing moments due to awkward lines, oddly chosen projections and/or missed notes. Unlike other Andrew Lloyd Webber, musicals such as Joseph and Jesus Christ Superstar, that I would gladly see multiple times, I believe one trip to “Sunset Boulevard” is enough for me.
For more information on Sunset Boulevard visit the MMT website: http://www.aboutmmt.org/ or Hennepin Theatre Trust: http://www.hennepintheatretrust.org/