sunset boulevard

The hype is growing for ‘Sunset Boulevard’

The hype is real for ‘Sunset Boulevard’. Opera Australia’s rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s show is billed as the “musical theatre event of the year”. But you didn’t need to be told that at today’s media preview. The Princess Theatre was buzzing and there were only two words on everybody’s lips- “Sarah” and “Brightman”.  

Sunset Boulevard is Sarah Brightman’s first theatrical performance in 30 years since last appearing in Webber’s “Aspects of Love”. The British Soprano now plays Norma Desmond, a faded silent movie star who plots her comeback. She hires Joe Gillis, a struggling screenwriter played by Australian Tim Drexl, to write the film that will renew her fame. 

Fiona Allen, CEO of Opera Australia, introduced the preview of the show that’s “making musical theatre history”. The ensemble then performed a number called ‘Let’s Do Lunch’. The crowd was delighted by the smooth dancing, the orchestra’s upbeat tempo, and Morgan Large’s set design that evokes the Golden Age of Hollywood.  

The crowd then waited for the appearance of Brightman in the next segment. It was a non-musical scene, so the audience didn’t get to hear the famed Soprano’s voice. Not all audiences will either; Silvie Paladino replaces Brightman as Norma Desmond on Tuesday and Wednesday nights throughout the season. 

Drexl then received a warm reception for his solo of the titular song in the final preview scene. Paul Warwick Griffin, the director of Sunset Boulevard, described Drexl as “the most extraordinary and exciting performer”. But Drexl admits he initially doubted his ability to perform the role. 

Any doubts are long removed- his performance promises to be the season’s highlight. Griffin hopes that “Australian audiences feel justifiably proud of his work” in the challenging role of Joe Gillis. 

The remaining question is: Does the show live up to its hype? I guess there’s only one way to find out.

Sunset Boulevard plays at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne until 11 August, before beginning its run at the Sydney Opera House on 28 August. 

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