Sunset Blvd. the Tony Award winning musical is now live on stage at the Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC) in Norwalk . The music is by Andrew Lloyd Webber and book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton. The musical based on the 1949 movie by director Billy Wilder and opened in London’s West End in 1993 with Patti Lapone as the lead actress. In 1994 it opened on Broadway and with Glenn Close as lead actress and the play won Tony’s for Best Original Score, Best Book and Lyrics, Best Actress as well as other accolades.
MTC is a small theater that consistently produces top quality performances featuring actors with Broadway, off-Broadway, and National Tour experience. This is all produced in an intimate black-box theater setting where the audience sits on three sides of the stage and is so close, you feel you are in the performance itself. It is quite the experience. Sunset Blvd which runs through October 2nd is a Broadway quality musical right in our backyard.
The setting is Hollywood in 1949-1950. Our main character is silent movie star Norma Desmond (Elizabeth Ward Land) who like so many silent movie era stars was cast aside by the Hollywood studios when sound replaced silent movies. Her desire is to return to the big screen and has even written her own screenplay, but she is shunned by the studios. By fortune, she crosses paths with Joe Gillis (Trevor Martin), who is down on his luck screen writer who spends more time dodging bill collectors then writing for the studios. Norma sees an opportunity and hires Joe to edit and improve her screenplay. But he must move into her house and work exclusively for her. Seduced by her stardom and wealthy lifestyle, Joe is persuaded to take on the work. He soon finds himself longing for the world outside Norma’s estate. He had promised a young studio assistant, Betty to collaborate on a script together. But this they must do in secrecy without Norma or her ever present and loyal butler, Max(James Patterson) finding out.
There is sadness in the story as Norma has grand delusions of returning to the silver screen and the studios that cast her aside at the end of the silent movie era. As the new year approaches with the optimism of her return and is echoed by the songs, “The Perfect Year” and “This Time Next Year”.
However despite these dreams, the story spirals downward to its dramatic conclusion.
Sunset Blvd is a first rate production. Since this is a large 12 member cast and a small stage, set design is limited but clever. Costumes, especially those worn by Norma evoke the era of Hollywood in its glamour era. You will walk away from the show impressed by the vocal performances. Elizabeth Ward Land as Norma amazed the audience with an award winning performance. Her vocals were powerful, emotional and mesmerizing. She has performed on Broadway no less than 6 times and she thrilled the theater the evening we attended. We were also very impressed with the vocals of Max the Butler played by James Patterson. At first limited to a talking role, Mr. Patterson impressed the audience with his deep and moving rendition of “The Greatest Star of All”. As always Kevin Connors delivers yet another directing triumph.
MTC’s revival of Sunset Blvd. delivers everything you expect from a Broadway show. The evening is filled with emotion, power, tragedy, the glamour of bygone Hollywood all wrapped in a beautiful musical performance. With Broadway talent and first rate production, why travel all the way to Manhattan when you can see great theatre so close?
Sunset Boulevard stars Elizabeth Ward Land (B’way- Amazing Grace, Memphis) as Norma Desmond and Trevor Martin (Wolfbane Prod.- Sweeney Todd, Sharon PH- Beauty & the Beast) and Joe Gillis. The cast also includes James Patterson (B’way- Beauty & The Beast, Gigi) as Max von Mayerling, Sandra Marante (Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Westport Country PH- In The Heights) as Betty Shaefer, Jacob Sundlie (MTC- Ragtime, Shawnee PH- Addams Family) as Artie Green, and in multiple roles is Philip Callen (Legacy Theatre Deathtrap, Urban Stages- Honky), Jeff Gurner (B’way- The Lion King, MTC- Falsettoland), Paul Aguirre (Nat’l Tour- Billy Elliot, Seussial), Matt Grasso (MTC- It’s A Wonderful Life, ACT of CT- Joseph…Dreamcoat), Helen Clare (SToNC- YAGM Charlie Brown, Honky Tonk Angels), Emily Solo (Charlottesville Opera- Sound of Music, New Camerata Opera- Infinite Energy), and Leigh Klinger (Sharon PH- Beauty & the Beast, Mac-Haydn Theatre- Sunset Blvd.)
Sunset Boulevard is directed by Kevin Connors with musical direction by David John Madore and choreography by Corinne C. Broadbent. Abbey Murray stage manages alongside the creative team which includes scenic design by Lindsay Fuori, lighting design by RJ Romeo, costume design by Diane Vanderkroef, prop design by Sean Sanford, and sound design by Will Atkin.
Ticket prices range from $40-$65 plus fees and can be purchased online.
MTC Music Theatre of Connecticut
phone (203-454-3883). MTC MainStage is located at 509 Westport Ave. in Norwalk, Ct
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