Sunset Boulevard.

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

Post  Paula74 on Sat Mar 12, 2011 3:41 am

Wow...those pictures are enough to make me really wish I could see that production. It looks stunning.

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

Post  operafantomet on Sat Mar 19, 2011 1:18 pm

SUNSET BOULEVARD
Gothenburg Opera March 8. 2011.

Norma Desmond: Nina Norblad (u/s)
Joe Gillis: Jonas Eskilsson
Max von Mayerling: Fred Johanson
Betty Shaefer: Martyna Lisowska
Cecil B. DeMille: will come back with his name... (he was an u/s)
Artie Green: Tobias Ahlsell

The Gothenburg Opera orchestra.


By chance we met the director/choreographer of Gothenburg's "Sunset" right after the show. We complimented her on a fantastic production, especially the filmatic moments. She told us the production is a homage to the 1950 movie, that's the whole concept. Not only are various sets and scenes copied from the movie, they also present the musical as an old fashioned movie - with title and actors projected on the "screen" before the show, with intermission goofing, and with a credit list after the show. They also had stills and small video clips projected on top of the stage at a few selected moments. The contrast between b/w scenes and highly colourful scenes also reflected early movie history (think "Wizard of Oz"). Cool concept.

The orchestra pit was huge, and with full opera orchestra - even a grand harp. Needless to say "Sunset Boulevard" has never sounded better live. The first view of the stage was also cool. Large silver columns and a silver/black draped curtain immediately set the b/w feeling used for the whole of Norma Desmond's world. As mentioned it opened with movie title and the names of this evening's cast projected on the screen (everyone knowing my view on Her Majesty Theatre's cast announcement will know how trilled I was when I noticed that it was the actual cast of the evening and not the main cast).

I write this review assuming you know the main story of Sunset. If you don't, the review won't make too much sense, I suspect... Also, this is one of the ALW musicals I know the least. I might have mixed up stuff. Feel free to point that out!


ACT I:

The opening scene was as cut out of the movie (you'll hear me use this phrase a lot...): A pool, a dead body floating in the water, press, police. But as the musical is mostly told from Joe Gillis' point of view, a large projection of how it would look through the eyes of the dead guy was projected on top - he was staring up on the journalists, police and paramedics staring down on him. Hard to explain, but very cool done.

The first couple of ensemble scenes was well done and the sets were very movie land like, but it wasn't really thrilling. A combination of not too interesting songs, a bit low sound and just supporting characters interacting made it a bit meeeh.

Enters the car chase from broke Joe Gillis escaping his creditors. It was.... odd... Cause they had made it look like the shooting of a movie car chase scene, but what was the point of that? It was too meta-meta-meta for my liking. They also repeated this for the scene where Betty Schaefer drives to Norma Desmond's house.

Norma Desmond's world was b/w, from the big house set to the tiniest pillow. That is, they had used deep maroon, silver, brown, blueish black, bronze and lots of shades of grey to create her world, so it looked rich. Lots of fringes, carvings and nice details made up her home. Norma Desmond was performed by u/s Nina Norblad, and WOW! She lived and breathed the role. Every movement was a study in restrained feelings and grandeur, and she had the voice to support it. She was more classical in sound than what I'm used to, which was a nice surprise. Her "With One Look" underlined the theme of the song - she owned the stage, she was the center of attention of everyone, including us - the "movie" audience.

(am I the only one finding it highly ironic that major silent movie star Norma Desmond express herself through singing? As such it's a very self contradicting theme for a musical...)

Jonas Eskilsson as Gillis was much younger than expected, but he had the stage presence and voice to make me forget all about it. And in a way it suited the production, as Norma didn't come across as too old either. She was definitely Gillis' senior, but younger in appearance than say Gloria Swanson. And the difference between elderly rich star and young penniless writer came well across. I also loved how he sometimes function as the narrator, and sometimes as a participant in the story. Switching between talking with Norma and talking to the "camera" is hard to do well, Eskilsson handled it very well.

Act I has the marvellous New Year's Eve scene, with the following suicide attempt. Both scenes looked stunning on stage. For the ball scene Norma was dressed in a gigantic netting dress, and probably a hundred balloons came flying down from the ceiling. Seeing Norma and Joe waltz through all these balloons was quite a sight. The contrast was also extreme to the highly colourful party Joe flees to, in a cramped apartment with lots of people. As he say, they're alive - everything about the cramped apartment was a lot more alive than Norma's frozen world. Which is underlined by Norma's more or less suicide attempt (I say more or less, as Norblad's Nina was played rather manipulative and everything she did or threatened to do was done to get her ways and to be center of attention).

Enters: the swan bed. All black stage, large drape from the ceiling, and the swan bed. A melodramatic Norma, a remorseful Joe. It looked quite stunning. And although it isn't the end of act 1, it is what I brought into the intermission.


ACT II:

The title song "Sunset Boulevard" has always been my favourite from the musical. So also here. It was extremely well performed by Eskilsson. His despair of being more or less trapped in Norma's snare was well projected (again I write more or less, as he also presents her as his life saver, so it's a bittersweet pill).

I should mention the set. Norma's b/w home had a large staircase and grand arched doors, and in the distance the famous "Hollywood" sign was always present. In b/w. A nice hint of Norma's career.

The scene where Joe and Norma visits the movie studio was probably the most visually impressing. From the car at the entrance of the studio (directly cut out of the movie) to the visit on the actual set was beautifully executed. "As If We Never Said Goodbye" was particularly impressing - although it's not the song that impress me the most in Sunset, I loved how they managed to still make Norma and her "air" appear b/w while the movie being shot in the background featured highly colourful, and her 1920s gestures set against the softer and more modern coreography was a nice touch. It was, in short, very filmatic.


Norma Desmond showing Joe Gillis her old movies.

The scene where Norma shows Joe her old movies was also very filmatic (pun intended). Them seated in a couch facing the audience, and movie clips projected on a screen between them and us, and with Norma mirroring her movements of the past. It was more like watching shadows of the past come alive. Beautiful.

The last half of second act was probably my favourite. Tense, with a Norma going from eccentric to downright mad. Especially when faced with the truth, about her career being long gone, her script rubbish, and her lover about to leave her. Her shooting Joe Gillis came s a surprise to most of the audience, as the mansion set envolved, so when he went out the door in the back, he was suddenly on front stage, and was shot in the back. Not with one, not with two, but with three loud bangs. He ended up in the pool, with the projected faces staring down at him, and we were back to the opening. Hail Ibsen for forcng the retrospective technique on the world... When done well, it works very well.

The best scene was still Normal descending the grand staircase, getting ready for her "final closeup", after murdering her young lover. Entering into total madness, she was once again re-living her past. Halfway down her pose echoed the "statue" in the staircase, which was very cool. Nina Norblad was a most fascinating Norma.

There are lots of others I should have mentioned: Fred Johanson as an extremely well-sung Max, Paul Edwards (+ the movie's Sam Comer & Ray Moyer) on set design, Anthoula Papadakis on direction and choreography, the conductor and orchestra... They all deserve lots of credit for their contribution. But first and foremost I agree with their slogan: movies are best in the opera!

OFFICIAL ENGLISH SITE: http://en.opera.se/forestallningar/sunset-boulevard-2010-2011/
LOTS OF STAGE PICS HERE: http://www.gunillabackman.com/?page_id=26&album=2&gallery=3

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

Post  EarlFan on Sat Mar 19, 2011 6:18 pm

I'm so sad I missed out on this and won't be able to see it, it's seems like such a wonderful production. Nice to hear your thoughts about the u/s Norma. Although I must admit I was hoping for you to see Gunilla Backman Razz , to hear more about her in the role since she is one of my favourite performers. Any thoughts on Martyna Lisowska who played Betty? I've seen her on stage but I didn't really like her back then so it would be interesting to hear how she was in this role. A wonderful review operafantomet, thank you Very Happy

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

Post  operafantomet on Sat Mar 19, 2011 6:28 pm

EarlFan wrote:I'm so sad I missed out on this and won't be able to see it, it's seems like such a wonderful production. Nice to hear your thoughts about the u/s Norma. Although I must admit I was hoping for you to see Gunilla Backman Razz , to hear more about her in the role since she is one of my favourite performers. Any thoughts on Martyna Lisowska who played Betty? I've seen her on stage but I didn't really like her back then so it would be interesting to hear how she was in this role. A wonderful review operafantomet, thank you Very Happy
I'm very fond of Gunilla Backman too, and only the day before had I been in contact with her to meet her at the stage door. But it seems she got a violent inflammation of the throat the same evening. That said, her u/s was fantastic. There were moments I pondered about if Backman could possibly have done it better.

I've seen Martyna Lisowska in Chess in Stockholm, and I remembered her face very well. She was u/s Florence back then, and I remember thinking she reminded quite a bit about Helen Sjöholm (in terms of look, not voice). As Betty S. I neither loved not disliked her. She was there, she sung and danced as she should, but she didn't stand out in any way.

Glad you liked the review! And I'm very sorry you missed out on the production, it was quite exquisite. I can only hope they'll perform it again at a later stage.

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

Post  Scorp on Sun Apr 10, 2011 1:34 pm

So guess who ALW thinks would be a great Norma Desmond for a film adaptation of the musical?

Madonna.

No, really.

In an interview broadcast on British television yesterday, entitled When Piers Morgan Met Andrew Lloyd Webber (I can't stand Piers Morgan, urgh), ALW said he thought Madonna would be a great Norma Desmond for the film and had actually tried to contact her about it (she hasn't responded).

Given that this is the same man who was never happy with the fact that he had to change the keys for Madonna for the Evita film and has always complained about this (despite his acknowledgement that the film would have never been made without her), I can't quite get over this comment. Seriously? Even when you've got Glenn Close and Meryl Streep to choose from? He'd have to change all the keys in Sunset for Madge as well. I also don't think she could act the part as Norma that well.

Not that I think this film is going to happen any time soon. Paramount are not letting it happen and they own the rights. And if RUG is responsible for the film, who can blame Paramount after what Really Useful Films did with Phantom? A bad adaptation would probably draw even more harsh criticism than the Phantom film did, as it wouldn't just be a bad adaptation of a good stage musical, but it'd also be an embarrassment to the legacy of one of the greatest films of all time. There would inevitably be comparisons with Wilder's original.

I don't quite get what ALW's relationship is like with Madonna. He kept very quiet about what he thought of her performance in Evita when that film came out (for the record, I liked her in it, despite the watering down of the material, which wasn't her fault per se), and has since complained about having to lower the keys. What's more, I can quote to you a now-forgotten interview with him at the time of the première of Sunset in the West End. This is from the Daily Express on 4 December 1992:

"Today, Andrew makes it abundantly clear that he would never want to see Madonna in the role [of Evita]: "I do not believe that she would be either attractive enough or right enough to play the role. One copy of her book is probably the most instant turn-off that anybody could see. Having made such a stupid idiot of herself, she might now revert to one or two things that she knows how to do.

"I think the kids have rejected Madonna. I think Madonna as Evita, seven years ago, was an extremely good idea. But Madonna as Evita now would absolutely bring the wrong image to the whole thing. I would find very little joy in working with her."


Ah, Lloyd Webber, the Lord of Contradictions.

The rest of the interview with Piers Morgan was nothing special. We did learn that ALW can no longer have any sex (and I must say it WAS brave of him to go public with his prostate cancer, kudos to him) and there was at least five minutes' worth of discussion about the size of his appendage. That didn't help with the digestion of my dinner.

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

Post  SenorSwanky on Sun Apr 10, 2011 3:15 pm

Two things I didn't want to think about: Madonna as Norma and ALW having sex. Thanks. Laughing

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

Post  Scorp on Sun Apr 10, 2011 3:58 pm

SenorSwanky wrote:Two things I didn't want to think about: Madonna as Norma and ALW having sex. Thanks. Laughing

Any time. Very Happy

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

Post  LadyCDaae on Mon Apr 11, 2011 2:21 am

Not that I think this film is going to happen any time soon. Paramount are not letting it happen and they own the rights. And if RUG is responsible for the film, who can blame Paramount after what Really Useful Films did with Phantom? A bad adaptation would probably draw even more harsh criticism than the Phantom film did, as it wouldn't just be a bad adaptation of a good stage musical, but it'd also be an embarrassment to the legacy of one of the greatest films of all time. There would inevitably be comparisons with Wilder's original.

True that. It would be a very delicate undertaking, and given his track record on film I don't know that I'd trust ALW within a hundred yards of it--especially when he's spouting off stuff like this. (I mean seriously, Madonna? It's not so much that she's a bad actress--I did like her in Evita, although I haven't seen it in years and don't know if my perception of it would have changed or not--but she doesn't have that melodramatic hauteur mixed with sheer delusional crazy that Norma needs.) Plus let's face it, he has a habit of being...fickle when it comes to his opinions. Remember when he wanted Patti LuPone to play Carlotta in the movie, and Schumacher had to remind him that she hated his guts? (And isn't LuPone a mezzo anyway?)

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

Post  operafantomet on Mon Apr 11, 2011 10:24 am

I just don't.... understand Andrew Lloyd Webber. At all.

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

Post  operafantomet on Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:23 am

SenorSwanky wrote:Two things I didn't want to think about: Madonna as Norma and ALW having sex. Thanks. Laughing
What Swanky said! Laughing

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

Post  Raphael on Tue Apr 12, 2011 1:47 am

So how big is it? I mean... does it, for instance, have a knee?

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

Post  operafantomet on Sun Jun 12, 2011 5:01 pm

Sunset Boulevard heading for Copenhagen this autumn, though I doubt in as grand a production as at the Gothenburg Opera. It'll be the first time ever it is produced in Denmark.

http://www.noerregadeteatret.dk/content/sunset-boulevard

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

Post  operafantomet on Thu Jun 30, 2011 9:48 am

As of now, my list of favourite Normas looks like this:

1. Betty Buckley
2. Nina Norblad (u/s Gothenburg)
3. Glenn Close
4. Elaine Paige/Patti LuPone

Others I should check out? I've seen various of Gunilla Backman from the Gothenburg production, but there are very, very few stage clips of her, and it's hard to get an impression based on TV appearances alone. I like what I've seen, though.

On a related note, I would LOVE to see Barbara Streisand do that one. Don't think it'll happen, but wow.

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

Post  Scorp on Thu Jun 30, 2011 3:24 pm

operafantomet wrote:As of now, my list of favourite Normas looks like this:

1. Betty Buckley
2. Nina Norblad (u/s Gothenburg)
3. Glenn Close
4. Elaine Paige/Patti LuPone

Others I should check out? I've seen various of Gunilla Backman from the Gothenburg production, but there are very, very few stage clips of her, and it's hard to get an impression based on TV appearances alone. I like what I've seen, though.

On a related note, I would LOVE to see Barbara Streisand do that one. Don't think it'll happen, but wow.

Try Helen Schneider who's on the German cast recording. Some good pro-shot footage of her Norma lurking about on YouTube too from the press reels.

I'm personally not a fan of Buckley's voice enough to really like her in this role... Good acting, though.

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

Post  ML6 on Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:54 am

I'm a fan of Pia Douwes' Norma. There is something very vamp and vogue about it that screams old Hollywood star. She is dangerous in tone, voice, and body during the second act.

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

Post  operafantomet on Mon Aug 01, 2011 9:21 am

According to a Norwegian newspaper, German Ute Lemper has been offered the role of Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard" next year. It's due to open in the autumn of 2012, in Paris.

"Jeg fikk nylig tilbud om hovedrollen som stumfilmstjernen Norma Desmond i en ny produksjon av musikalen Sunset Boulevard i Paris med première høsten 2012. Tilbake til Europa, altså."

(Recently I was offered the lead role as silent movie star Norma Desmond in a new production of the musical Sunset Boulevard in Paris, opening in the autumn of 2012. Back to Europe, then."

http://www.aftenposten.no/kul_und/article4188940.ece

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

Post  Scorp on Sun Jun 23, 2013 9:27 am

Saw Patti LuPone in concert this week. Seth Rudetsky persuaded her to sing 'With One Look' for the first time since she got fired (just realised Sunset premiered almost 20 years ago -- scary!). It was an emotional moment that was the icing on the cake after she already made my night by singing the hell out of 'Rainbow High' and 'Buenos Aires' (and then bitching out Madonna with Seth in front of Jonathan Pryce!!).

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Re: Sunset Boulevard.

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