18 April 2024
Entertainment Theater

Overview: Nicole Scherzinger Captivates in a Daring ‘Sundown Boulevard’

The 1993 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Sundown Boulevard” is a couple of former display star’s descent into insanity. So it appears acceptable that its bravura new West End revival ought to, in inventive phrases, itself be a bit mad: reckless and daring, stretching its supply materials to the restrict and past.

The manufacturing, starring the singer Nicole Scherzinger in a career-defining efficiency, opened Thursday on the Savoy Theater and runs by means of Jan. 6, 2024. I can’t think about one other London present producing comparable buzz this season.

For that, credit score the maverick director Jamie Lloyd, whose tightly centered, stripped-back aesthetic is on full view right here.

Purists might balk at a “Sundown Boulevard” with out the visible splendor of Norma Desmond’s baroque Hollywood palazzo, as now we have beforehand seen onstage and within the authentic 1950 characteristic movie.

However Lloyd’s streamlined strategy has an influence of its personal. The forged as typically as not put on modern avenue garments — or typically not a lot in any respect — and moderately than Norma preening in a turban and flowing clothes, Scherzinger prowls the stage, barefoot and feline in a black slip. (Scherzinger’s sole earlier London stage credit score was Grizabella in a perfunctory 2014 revival of “Cats.”)

Scherzinger finds a predatory attract within the character that’s each fascinating and chilling, and it’s simple to see why the hapless younger screenwriter Joe Gillis (a superb Tom Francis) succumbs to Norma’s entreaties to assist craft a display comeback as Salome.

As soon as she has Joe in her grip and resident in her house, Norma can go in for the (literal) kill: a bloodstained finale of which Salome herself would approve. Holding watchful eye on the pair are Joe’s girlfriend Betty (the sweet-faced Grace Hodgett Younger) and Norma’s butler and ex-husband Max, whom the firm-voiced David Thaxton performs with a glowering mien that, you’re feeling, the character discovered from his former spouse.

The vocals all through are spectacular, and the lyrics’ cynical musings on Hollywood (“This stinking city”) are lushly served by the musical director Alan Williams’s orchestra. In line with the somber temper, extra frivolous songs like “The Girl’s Paying” have been reduce.

Scherzinger nails Norma’s two showstoppers — one in every act — shedding sun shades as she lifts the defiant “With One Look” to the rafters and past. That quantity’s second-act equal, “As If We By no means Mentioned Goodbye,” sung throughout a deluded Norma’s return to Paramount Footage, begins plaintively, even tenderly, earlier than constructing to a mighty roar. Scherzinger extends her lengthy, sinuous arms within the path of the viewers like talons towards prey.

The musical’s London premiere in 1993, and subsequent runs in Los Angeles and New York, had been notable for a parade of Normas (Patti LuPone, Glenn Shut and Betty Buckley, amongst them) and for a levitating set from the designer John Napier that was a outstanding engineering feat. Right here, a special know-how is at play, one suited to the Instagram period, through which everyone seems to be all the time on present.

Hand-held cameras highlight characters at key moments, their faces projected on an enormous display that broadcasts each emotion (and facial pore). On Soutra Gilmour’s largely naked set, brilliantly lit by Jack Knowles, Scherzinger’s Norma is already spectacular. However her picture projected above us amplifies her sense of feral grandeur.

Norma — who was 50 in Billy Wilder’s traditional movie — is now stated to be 40, and was in her prime at 17. Showbiz discards personalities even earlier now, and Scherzinger, 45, who first got here to prominence within the ’90s lady group, the Pussycat Dolls, has a shivery command over an element that requires her to plunge headfirst right into a psychic abyss.

The stressed cameras additionally zoom in on Joe, who’s adopted backstage and out the theater by a stay feed as he sings the present’s sardonic title quantity earlier than returning center-stage in exactly calibrated time for the resounding ultimate be aware. Nathan Amzi and Joe Ransom’s video design pulls off an actual coup with this sequence, although followers of the Belgian director Ivo van Hove will acknowledge the strategy of folding celluloid into the theater.

The prevailing depth extends to the choreographer Fabian Aloise’s tightly drilled ensemble, which suggests a writhing, stressed mass of Hollywood wannabes. And Aloise is presented, in Scherzinger, with a uncommon Norma who can actually dance, and who joins Joe for some scorching two-steps — even, at one level, doing the splits.

There’s enjoyable available amid the present’s ambiance of fury. Because the cameras roam backstage, we briefly glimpse a life-size cutout of Lloyd Webber, and a shot of Gloria Swanson, the movie’s Norma, taking part in on TV. The Noël Coward music title “Mad in regards to the boy,” is written in lipstick on a mirror in Scherzinger’s dressing room — which is a method of describing our heroine.

However for all its nods to the previous, this “Sundown Boulevard” belongs to the right here and now. There’s not a whiff of nostalgia to the manufacturing, which takes a longtime musical by the scruff of the neck and sends it careering into the trendy day.

Sundown Boulevard

By way of Jan. 6 on the Savoy Theater in London; thesavoytheatre.com