Signature Theatre Sunset BoulevardBy Mark Lee Adams • Dec 23rd, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Signature Theatre, Arlington, VA
Through Feb. 13th
Reviewed December 18th, 2010
Sunset Boulevard is just Awesome! A wonderful Washington Premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical. What a magical night to see this production. A packed house, as most Signature Theatre houses are, with the audience all excited to see this show, were given memories they or you won’t soon forget.
Eric Schaeffer, Artistic Director of Signature Theatre as well as the director of Sunset Boulevard, has put together a stunning cast, as well as a marvelous creative team. Complete with a 20-piece orchestra and an ensemble featuring Sandy Bainum, Madeline Botteri, Matt Conner, William Diggle, Rebecca Fale, Gia Mora, Jake Odmark, Kirsten Riegler, Stephen Gregory Smith, Sean Thompson, Matthew Wojtal and Kara Tamieka Watkins.
This play stars Florence Lacey (Norma Desmond). Ms. Lacey’s opening numbers: Surrender, Once Upon a Time, With One Look and Salome launch this play to heights of pure theatrical joy. Ms. Lacey’s command of her character takes you into her world of loneliness. She makes the audience feel every emotion of what once was in our lives and makes us all yearn for that shining and glimmering star just one more time. She passionately brings us with her through her desires as she battles her way back to her rightful place. Her performance alone will thrill every emotional bone you have. Fabulous is too small a word for her Norma Desmond.
D.B. Bonds (Joe Gillis) is another of many bright and sparkling performances. Mr. Bonds tells the story through his eyes with the skill and talent you’ll usually only find on Broadway. His comfort with his character as every moment presents itself is perfectly performed.
Susan Derry (Betty Schaefer) exudes beauty, poise and a fabulous singing voice. Ms. Derry, like all the principles in this play, is at the top of her game. Whenever a performer can make you forget you’re watching a play and instead allow you to enter into her world on stage you know you’re in the presence of someone, something very special.
Ed Dixon (Max Von Mayerling) is so riveting in his role; it’s hard to take your eyes off of him. The scene in which his character is watching a film of Norma Desmond proves how brilliant this actor it. He draws you into his eyes so deeply I could see the movie in them. A true Master Performer of his craft. Breathtaking and tear jerking.
Other notable performances, for all were just so good, were: Sean Thompson (Artie), Matt Conner (Manfred), J. Fred Shiffman (Sheldrake) and Harry A. Winter (Cecil B. DeMille). All are wonderful actors and complete this wonderful show.
Eric Schaeffer’s direction is wonderful for this show. As hard as it may be, I would’ve liked to have seen more of Joe lured into the world of Sunset Boulevard. His opening number, the title number, seemed to start off with an anger and disdain for all of what Sunset Boulevard stood for, but isn’t the opposite also true? Weren’t Joe’s just as high, at some point, as all aspiring artist in tinsel town? I just didn’t see this wonderful song go through as many levels as it could’ve done.
The orchestra, conducted by Jon Kalbfleisch, was one of the best I’ve heard at Signature. The music flows through and across the stage and into the audience as if in sync with Ms. Lacey’s (Norma Desmond). The choreography by Karma Camp was sprite and in tune with the entire production. The set by Daniel Conway was brilliant as well. From the long staircase to the lot at Paramount Pictures and back again was a pleasure to look at and enjoy. So too was the sound Matt Rowe and lighting Howard Binkley. The costumes really put all the final touches of a show that could be sent to Broadway. Kathleen Geldard was absolutely flawless in her costuming of Ms. Lacey and the entire cast.
Photos by Scott Suchman.
Disclaimer: Signature Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/6018.
Mark Lee Adams has been involved in theatre for over 40 years in the local Washington DC Metro area as well as NYC and London England. Mark has performed at the Dramatist Guild Theatre on Broadway, at The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre Off-Broadway. His credits include work in many local theatres as well: The Folger Theatre Group, Arena Stage, New Playwrights Theatre, 7th Street Players, The Keegan Theatre, The American Century Theatre, The Journeyman Theatre, ASTA Theatre, The Hayloft Dinner Theatre (Associate Producer), The Lazy Susan Theatre, Discovery Channels, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (Frankenstein) with Donald Sutherland. London, England credits include work at: The Duke of York Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre, The Questors Theatre, The British Embassy Players. Mark is a graduate of The Drama Studio, London, England. Mark is also a narrator of audio books for Gildan Audio: “True North”, by Bill George; “Never Give Up”, by Tedy Bruschi and “Five Minds for the Future”, by Howard Gardner among them. Mark currently teaches Advanced Acting at The Little Theatre of Alexandria and still performs locally in many theatres.