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SUNSET BOULEVARD O'Connell & Company Theatre
By
May 11, 2023, 21:59
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Through May 21
SUNSET BOULEVARD O’Connell & Company Theatre

Hollywood likes nothing better than making movies about itself.
Some are actually good.
A classic is “Sunset Boulevard,” with Gloria Swanson as a one-time star living in a mansion on Sunset Boulevard, determined to return to star status.
This was at a time when the old “studio system” was dying and TV was rising and no one knew what would happen.
Turning from the 1950 time of the old movie, we go to 1993 and Andrew Lloyd Webber taking the movie and developing it into a musical, with the help of Don Black and Christopher Hampton.
In the world of entertainment, where nothing is allowed to die, there is a film version of the non-musical stage show, based on the original movie from Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and D.M. Marshman Jr.
The basic idea of a star trying to return from falling to the A, B or C list gets used again and again.
Sometimes successfully, as in some, SOME versions of “A Star is Born.”
There is slated to be a movie version of this musical.
Anyway, this musical story revolves around Norma Desmond (Mary Kate O’Connell), the once upon a time star.
In a complicated way, she becomes involved with flawed screenwriter Joe Gillis (Kevin Deese) who wants to rebuild his career and “The Industry” doesn’t seem interested.
So, he moves into the old mansion on Sunset to help Norma write a script she wants Paramount to make about her a comeback film.
Her factotum, Max von Mayerling (Michael J. Galante), keeps everything running in a mansion which clearly once had a much larger staff.
Max drives her around in a classic car from the Thirties, a key element in the story.
Director and choreographer Joey Bucheker is working with a wonderfully adaptable set from Bill Baldwin, using a set in a theater high enough to have a very large second level and banners above that.
Norma wants every moment of Joe’s time.
She doesn’t know about, nor is she interested in the young writer in Cecil B. DeMille’s office at Paramount who is working with Joe on a script of her own.
It’s apparently much better than Norma’s script about herself.
This is all a complicated, twisting and turning tale revolving around Norma Desmond’s disconnection from reality.
Norma is in love with Joe and shows it for the holidays, gifting him with a custom-made evening suit.
There’s a fight and Joe heads off into the night, eventually to a party where he runs into Betty Schaefer (Heather Casseri), that aspiring screenwriter.
The story opens with Joe Gillis floating in the mansion swimming pool and closes with the police investigating his death.
As so often with Lord Lloyd-Webber, there are strong individual numbers and Bucheker kicks in some good dancing from the ensemble.
Javier Bustillos is the production supervisor.
O’Connell has some of those individual numbers, “With One Look” or “Surrender” or “New Ways to Dream” with Joe Gillis.
Galante has “The Greatest Star of All.”
Joe and Betty get “Too Much in Love to Care.”
They all get “The Final Scene” when everything goes wrong.
There is nothing like Hollywood gazing at its navel and “Sunset Boulevard” is certainly that.
It’s an entertaining show, very much worth seeing.

A.W.

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