Sunset Boulevard is the Tony Award-winning 1990s musical of the 1950s film of the same name. It’s the story of a tragic relationship between an old silent movie star, Norma Desmond (“the greatest star of all”, Ann Crumb), and a young, out-of-work screenwriter looking to make a couple bucks, Joe Gillis (Kevin Early). Directed by Rod A. Lansberry, Arvada Center’s production is brilliant, beautifully executed and features a fantastic cast.
There’s no surprise how this story ends, the very first sight engineered by Brian Mallgrave, the set designer, and Gail J. Gober, the lighting designer, is that of Gillis’ dead body floating in a murky swimming pool, however; we (the audience) are looking at the corpse, viewing the waterlogged limbs from the within the depths of the pool.
Ann Crumb follows in the footsteps of both Patti LuPone and Glenn Close but now Crumb has made her own mark on the role. Crumb brings a fresh perspective and uses each sweeping entrance and imperious exit to illuminate a deluded psyche. In the end, when Norma slithers down the stairs, posturing grotesquely in what is meant to be a sinuous dance of seduction; audiences are able to fully empathize with Crumb.
Leading man, Kevin Early is remarkable and consistent. His acting is completely committed from the very first moment of the show to his explosive final scene. Early is likable, charming and the guy you want to see succeed.
Other noteworthy performances come from Stephen Day, who plays Max Von Mayerling (Desmond’s former husband), Jeremy Sortore, who plays Artie Green and Piper Lindsay Arpan, who plays various roles throughout. “As ensemble members we are the comic relief. The richness of the show is in the drama but its fun that we’re the playful element,” says Arpan.
Webber’s score is full of rich and swelling melodies, although with Webber: when he latches onto an insinuating musical theme, there seems to be no such thing as one reprise too many. As musical director, David Nehls does a superb job of leading the crew through the score. “First, it’s a difficult score. It’s one of the only scores in musical theatre that is constantly in 5/8 time or 7/8 time. It’s not dealing with normal natural rhythms. Then, it was about making sure that we were being authentic to the story,” says Nehls.
Sunset Boulevard is brilliant and would make the great Andrew Lloyd Webber proud. See Sunset Boulevard now through October 10, 2010 at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities.
Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
6901 Wadsworth Blvd
Arvada, Colorado 80003