Actors, dancers, writers, directors all flock to Hollywood in an attempt to make it big and see their name in lights. Those lucky enough to see their dream to fruition also face the challenge of keeping their name in lights and face in public view. That’s the fate that has transpired for silent movie star Norma Desmond (Sarah Gibson) in Minneapolis Musical Theatre’s SUNSET BOULEVARD.
Unable to successfully transition her silent movie career to the new ‘talkies’, Norma is holed up in her mansion on Los Angeles’ prestigious Sunset Boulevard with her butler Max von Mayerling (Christian Unser). It is here where she is waiting for Hollywood to come calling again, specifically acclaimed director Cecil B. DeMille (Marlin Rothe).
When out of work screenwriter Joe Gillis (Tim Kuehl) inadvertently ends up on Norma’s doorstep, the lure of a paying job editing the screenplay Norma has written persuades him to move in. But soon Joe is pulled between working with the eccentric and Norma or the eager young writer Betty Schaefer (Aly Westberg).
The chemistry between Gibson’s Norman and Kuehl’s Joe was lacking. However, the chemistry between Westberg’s Betty and Joe was noticeably present.
Known for staging productions with limited space MMT is great at scaling back sets. This production is no exception. The main set for this production is the sanitarium where Norma ultimately ends up. Through the use of creative scene transitions and stage exits and entrances we easily forget we haven’t left the sanitarium. The show also uses projections throughout the show to convey the various locations in the show…studio back lot, Norma’s house, Hollywood Hills, studio offices, etc. One issue I had with the projections was when a live camera was used to capture Norma’s breaks from reality. I found this very distracting. And it seemed to serve no purpose that I could find.
Overall, this is a wonderful production. That plays well in the limited space. The night I went was a sell out and heard many theatre goers praising the creative staging.
SUNSET BOULEVARD runs through June 23, at the New Century Theatre 615 Hennepin Ave. Following the run at New Century Theatre SUNSET BOULEVARD will run August 6-11 at Theatre L’Homme Dieu in Alexandria, MN.
Photo Credit: Hennepin Theatre Trust and Minneapolis Musical Theatre