When you enter the theater you see a big black curtain hiding the stage. Suddenly the screen becomes streaming images of old Hollywood and Sunset Blvd. The curtain comes up and you see the entire orchestra is on stage right in front of you. There is a playing space on the sides and stage center for the actors as well as ramps and metal staircases for people to enter and exit. The set is minimal putting the bulk of this production on the shoulders of the performers to take us back to a time when STARS were STARS and HOLLYWOOD was GOLDEN.
When the curtain comes up we see a body hanging in the air stage left and the living version of the same body, that of Mr. Joe Gillis (MICHAEL XAVIER), who appears stage center and starts the prologue to the musical. We go back six months from the murder. Mr. Gillis (XAVIER) chases down his agent in need of $300 to keep his car from being repossessed. His agent tells him: “MAYBE YOU NEED A NEW AGENT!”. A desk set rolls in and we are at a meeting with the studio guy Mr.Sheldrake (ANDY TAYLOR) and his assistant Ms. Betty Shaeffer (SIOBHAN DILLON). Mr. Sheldrake (TAYLOR) is not excited by anything MR. Gillis (XAVIER) has submitted or written in some time. It doesn’t help that Ms. Shaeffer (DILLON) shoots his screenplay down as well. He begs for $300 but no go. Suddenly Ms. Shaeffer (DILLON) approaches Mr. Gillis(XAVIER) and asks if he would like to work on another screenplay that he wrote that she thinks has what it takes to be a hit but needs a re-write. Mr. Gillis (XAVIER) gives her permission to re-write it on her own. He gives her ground rules. Mr. Gillis( XAVIER) gives the re-possession team the slip from grabbing his car by ducking into the drive way and garage of a old Hollywood mansion. Before he can speak he is told by the butler Max (FRED JOHANSON) that his mistress has been expecting him. It is the great silent film star Norma Desmond (GLENN CLOSE). She appears and talks. She hires him to re-write her new film that she plans on starring in with Mr. DeMille (PAUL SCHOEFFLER). It is called Salome and it is a mess. Mr. Gillis (XAVIER) talks his way into the deal for lots of cash but little does he know he is the fly and she is the spider. Time moves on and the re-write takes place but Norma (CLOSE) becomes more and more attached to Mr. Gillis (XAVIER). She demands he attend her New Year’s Eve ball. He reluctantly agrees. But it turns out to be only him and her. They dance and talk but things doesn’t go right. He rebuffs her romantic attentions. She runs off and so does he. He runs to his friend’s New Year’s Eve party where he runs into Ms. Shaeffer (DILLON) and they strike a deal to work on the screenplay BLIND WINDOWS together at night. Mr. Gillis (XAVIER) is having a great time until he gets a call from MAX ( JOHANSON). Mr. Gillis (XAVIER) runs back to the Mansion to find that Norma (CLOSE) has slit her wrists and lies on the sofa distraught. In an attempt to console her he talks to her. She seduces him to kiss her and agree to being her man. And the story is just getting started.
The musical is stacked with over 33 musical numbers, some of the best are as follows: LET’S HAVE LUNCH, WITH ONE LOOK, SALOME, SCHWAB’S DRUGSTORE, NEW WAYS TO DREAM, THE LADYING’S PAYING, THE PERFECT YEAR, SUNSET BLVD, THIS TIME NEXT YEAR, AS IF WE NEVER SAID GOOD-BYE and A LITTLE SUFFERING. Each number is better than the previous and we can’t wait to see what is next. The audience has trouble stifling their applause as the numbers run. When MS. ClOSE does “WITH ONE LOOK” and later “AS IF WE NEVER SAID GOOD-BYE” and the mood is effusive and the audience explodes in thunderous applause that they don’t want to end. GLENN CLOSE is a Triumph. She is an enchantress. With just one performance she can break your heart in the loveliest way. She is her own real “Norma Desmond” and surely the world has gotten small as her talent looms large and brilliant. Being a woman of a particular age this role means so much more to the audience and I am sure to MS. CLOSE. You can not miss the chance to experience her performance in this show. I feel that much more inspired and artistically fulfilled. MR. XAVIER plays Mr. Gillisperfectly. He is right out of central casting for a major Hollywood leading man. He is charming, handsome and full of talent. His SUNSET BLVD is a mini blessing to your senses. He proves sometimes to that good guys do at times finish last. MS. DILLONplays Ms. Shaeffer nicely. She was surprisingly great with such a mousy role that for some actresses would be hard to crack. She was strong and beautiful with complex levels. She really shows how Ms. Shaeffer is out of her depth when she comes upon Norma Desmond (MS. CLOSE). MR. JOHANSON walks a razor’s blade with his performance of coming off cold and dark and emotionless. But he peaks your interest and his performance adds up at the end with the surprise of who he really is to Norma (MS. CLOSE). Everyone from MS. CLOSE to the least of the ensemble cast gave all to make a triumphant night of theatre. SUNSET BOULEVARD washes over you like a warm breeze in autumn and you love every second. Please rush down to the PALACE THEATER and get in on the best performance on Broadway right now.