Saturday August 19th 2017

“Sunset Boulevard”

sunset-boulevardBack in 1950, Billy Wilder made a film called “Sunset Boulevard”, that is the inspiration and in fact what this musical is based on. The film was about an aging movie star who lost her fame and glamour when the movies became “talkies”. While her face was perfect and her emotions were awe inspiring, her voice did not fit and so, her career ended. She had plenty of money, able to live on a large estate on the famed “Sunset Boulevard”, but she missed the adoration and the love of the people, her people!. Evidently, Andrew lloyd webber, who was a fan of the film, saw this as an opportunity to create a musical drama with some fantastic music added to the book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton. This is a very upscale musical that hinges on being an “opera piece” and is one that is not done often despite a powerful story. Webber, in trying to create an opera had far to many songs, creating a sing-song dialogue in many places. It shows up very soon in the opening after a thrilling overture as our narrator ( who is also a lead character)  Joe Gillis ( played with great energy and vivacity by Will Ray) a writer who is down on his luck, takes us back in time and shows us the Hollywood of the 1950’s.

Silent movie star Norma Desmond ( a powerful performance by Christine Sherrill , who might be a little young to play an aging star who has fallen from fame, but makes up for it with the true emotion that this part calls for and a dynamic vocal range that truly is worth the ticket price) is attempting to write a movie script for her “comeback” , not just for her, but for all her adoring fans who continue to write to her daily. Joe, running from the finance people who want to repossess his car, ends up on her estate and then agrees to stay on and help her rewrite her masterpiece. Their relationship becomes one of passion and of two people using each other for what they are seeking.                                                                                         Will-Ray,-Christine-Sherrill

Joe has another interest- that of bringing another of his screenplays to life with the help of a younger woman, Betty Schaefer ( the adorable and silk voiced Dara Cameron) who ends up falling in love with Joe ( and he with her), but there life together was not meant to be. Her fiance,Artie Green , an old friend of Joe’s ( Adrian Aguilar) is off doing a film elsewhere as Joe and Betty work on his script. What we see in this drama with music is a story about people who are reaching for stars who will not get there; an actress who will never get her glory back, a screenwriter who will not write the perfect play, a would be writer who gives up the love of her life and many others who tell the tale of dreams that will never come true.

Directed by William Ostek, who has probably seen the film version hundreds of times, and may I suggest you also view the film before this marvelous production, knows the characters and feels what they feel, making him a better interpreter of what Wilder created. Tammy Mader handles the choreography, but to be honest, this is not a dancing show. Don’t expect the big production numbers and a big tap number. This is a play with music and one that sparkles from the overture to the finale. You will be spellbound and in awe and those who tend to doze off during a play, will not want to miss any part of this story, so odds are, for once, you will see the entire play.

The big musical numbers in this play are  Norma’s  “With One Look” and “As If We Never Said Goodbye” ( which Ms Sherrill truly nails- in fact the ovation for With One Look” began before the song was even finished, and I for one had chills up my spine for both!., the duet between Betty and Joe ( here, Cameron and Ray showed great emotion as they fall in love) and of course, the character Max with his charming and tingling songs, “The Greatest Star of All” and  the reprise of “New Ways To Dream” an impressive character played by Don Richard.

Scott Davis has done marvelous things with the stage adding a double deck balcony that serves many purposes and moving walls that create different locations. the lighting by Rita Pietraszek is perfection as is the sound by Ray Nardelli. The use of projections for several driving scenes ( Mike Tutaj, one of our theater community’s finest) is new and adds a new dimension to this sterling production as do the costumes by Theresa ham and once again Nick Heggestad shows his ability to find whatever prop is needed for whatever production our theater community  needs. Roberta Duchak is the music director and this is not an easy show to work because there are so many melodies that do not line-up with the lyrics ( Webber loves to play with this, and has always done a great job in doing so). The orchestra is conducted by Ben Johnson with nine musicians who make  the sounds of a 25 piece orchestra.

A big scale musical cannot live by stars alone. There are many roles that the ensemble plays and what a line up this production has- some key actors, who play star roles around our thriving theater scene are taking on smaller roles in this production, but these are actors who prove that  “there are no small parts, just small actors” by making each role they play an important ingredient in a solid production. Listen to this lish:Jonathan Weir (Cecil B. DeMille),Larry Adams,Rod THomas,Andrew Lupp,Paula Scrofano,Corey Goodrich,Devin DeSantis, David Kortmeier,Rachel Klipper and Sarah Page. And then we have a strong ensemble: William Carlos Angulo, Amy Brophy, Gary Carlson,Ariane Dolan,Alex McCrary,Alex Newkirk,Amy Orman,Jill Sesson and Will Skrip. Each of these actors/singers/dancers does what they need to to make every part of this play the best it can be, and because of them, this is sure to be Jeff Recommended ( in fact, possibly a big winner).

Again, if you have not seen the movie, I suggest you do, but even if you cannot find the time to do so, I heartily suggest you take a look at your soical calendar and find a date to make it out to Drury Lane Oakbrook for their wonderful production of “Sunset Boulevard” which will continue through March 24th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m.,Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.,Fridays at 8:30 p.m.,Saturdays at 5 and 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 and 6 p.m..

Tickets range from $35-$46 ( a bargain) but you can also include a great meal and pay only  from $49.75 to $68 depending on the performance day and time. This is a very special deal that is unmatched in the area. Quality food, great performances and wait, there is more- free parking .

Seniors can save even more!

The theater is located  in Oakbrook just north of the Oakbrook Mall on Drury Lane Road

to order your tickets so you do not miss this special experience, visit the box office in person, by phone at 630-530-0111, call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 or visit www.drurylaneoakbrook.com

To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com , go to review round-up and click on Sunset Boulevard”Will-Ray,-Dara-Cameron

 

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