This dramatic musical is one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most haunting masterpieces, telling the story of struggling screen writer Joe Gillis as he gets mixed up in the world of silent screen star Norma Desmond. Ben Tomlinson as Joe handles the role with charisma, professional polish and masked vulnerability which makes for a believable and well-rounded character. He leads the show with a firm grip, but doesn’t overshadow his other performers. In this production, every cast member gets their chance to shine.
The slick choreography from Stuart Hutchinson (who is also one of the stars of the ensemble, in my opinion) ensures there’s plenty to be intrigued by throughout the production, and when there are moments of quiet or solos/duets the cast has our full attention. Laura Judge as Norma is fantastic – she’s oddly likeable when you consider she’s playing a very unlikeable, attention-seeking woman, and I find myself feeling utterly sorry for Norma throughout. Her solos are pitch-perfect and she doesn’t over-blow her dramatic outbursts, treading the fine line between desperate and hysterical with a perfect balance which is incredibly hard to do.
From costumes that suit each character, their personalities and the show’s era right through to a creative set that incorporates projection, an ornate staircase and plenty of scope for scene transformations – the backstage crew should be applauded for their effort. It’s all too often we provide praise for the talent we see on stage – but without the hard work of the whole team the show simply couldn’t go on. So hats off to all involved, the effort absolutely paid off. It’s not hard to see why BrassNeck theatre is widely heralded as one of the area’s very best amateur dramatic groups.
It’s very brave to attempt such a complex piece as Sunset Boulevard, and to do so imaginatively, but director Royston Bayfield defiantly proves that BrassNeck really can do anything… and do it superbly, as well.
Photograph credited to Matthew Kitchen Photography