By Amy Cooper
Nikolai Foster's Sunset Boulevard brashly burst onto our stage to a series of standing ovations on Tuesday. With its enormous, unflinching orchestrations by Andrew Lloyd Webber, intricate design and powerhouse cast, Sunset Boulevard is a classic.
The story is that of a romanticised, tragedy based on Billy Wilder's 1950 film of the same name. Set in the fabled street and fanciful paramount studios, the piece follows Joe Gillis, (Danny Mac), a struggling writer in debt and about to give up on Hollywood, along with Norma Desmond, (Ria Jones), a fading star of the silent movie era living in the past, a tormented soul. The two meet by chance and Norma sees an opportunity to return to the screen, with Joe well within her clutches their lives will never be the same again.
This fast-paced epic screams glamour, it is the epitome of heartbreak, misfortune and intensity, a stunning performance not to be missed. But as always don't just take our word for it, here's what the critics had to say'
'A packed house at the New Wimbledon Theatre rose as one to salute Ria Jones' bow and with good reason. Jones remains magnificent, her definitive, decaying diva capturing Norma Desmond's long-faded Hollywood majesty' Jones' portrayal of Desmond's shattered mind stands only on its sheer artistic beauty. Her voice thrills, while her acting breaks our hearts. Ria Jones' Norma Desmond has to be one of the finest musical theatre creations of the decade.'
'The creatives here' [are] top-notch. Lee Proud's choreography lends an ingenious slickness to the onstage movement. Not just in the exciting ensemble numbers, but also in a gorgeous tango performed by Jones and Mac to The Perfect Year' Douglas O'Connell's imaginative projection work that well supports Colin Richmond's ingenious design. Likewise Ben Cracknell's lighting work. Above all, a nod to Adrian Kirk in the pit, whose 14 piece orchestra brings a symphonic texture to Lloyd-Webber's sumptuous score.'
Jonathan Baz, (http://www.jonathanbaz.com)
'Mac is more than at home in the role of Joe Gillis. His vocals are crisp and powerful, and he provides the role with all the boyish charm and ambition it deserves.'
'Molly Lynch delivers the role of Betty Schaffer with beautiful clarity''
'Ria Jones absolutely shines, portraying both the glamour and madness of Norma with every minute gesture' storming the stage, wide-eyed and full of psychotic tension throughout.
'The design incorporates the movie themes into every aspect of this production' This forethought is testimony to the ingenious direction of Nikolai Foster who clearly has a strong grasp on both the theatrical and filmic elements of the piece' you couldn't ask for a more fitting tribute to the golden age of cinema. The set is perfectly complemented by a stunning projection design that bursts into life for car chases and movie flashbacks.'
Dan Reeves, (London Theatre 1)
'The screaming ovation for Ria Jones' started in the middle of Act 1' Danny Mac is equally excellent as frustrated Hollywood writer Joe Gillis' and nails the complex, provocative role. His opening Act 2 song, 'Sunset Boulevard', is a showstopper.'
'With rich tones, breaking and reaching for the big notes, Jones' characterisation is full-blooded and all too human. Everyone can see she is heading for trouble, but carries on, completely deluded her return will be a welcome one' Ria Jones is more than ready for her close-up now.'
'As Norma's right-hand-man, Adam Pearce as Max Von Meyerling is astonishing. A gloriously textured voice that fills the stage, Pearce is equally as good.'
'Colin Richmond's set design is excellent''
Peter May, (The Church of England Newspaper)
'Transported back to the golden era of film for this production. A story which encompasses feelings of passion, power, desperation, love and sadness.'
'Rapturous applause throughout and a well-deserved standing ovation at the end.'
Nicky Wyatt, (Fairy Powered Productions)
Sunset Boulevard runs until 14 April at the New Wimbledon Theatre.