Sunset Boulevard

The 1950 film Sunset Boulevard remains a masterful example of using noir conventions to heighten a sense of creeping anxiety and existential dread. Such praise, however, has not been as universally extended to the musical adaptation first staged in 1993. As developed by Broadway maestro Andrew Lloyd Webber and co-writers/lyricists Don Black and Christopher Hampton, the musical does generally adhere to the film's storyline, recounting the parasitic bond holding Joe Gillis, a struggling Hollywood screenwriter, to Norma Desmond, a faded actress of the silent era whose ego-maniacal delusions of screen immortality lead to fatal consequences. But despite numerous Tony Awards (including Best Musical), the production was marred by mixed reviews, enormous costs, and a pair of pricy lawsuits involving high-profile casting changes. With the passing of time, however, a reappraisal of the work has gained steam, as evidenced locally by this new production from Minneapolis Musical Theater (in partnership with Hennepin Theater Trust). Rather than following the musical by rote, this scaled-back staging emphasizes the poisonous intimacy at the core of the story, utilizing screen projections and live cameras to effectively underscore a claustrophobic aura of alienation and desperation. Narrated in flashback by Norma (who now resides in a mental institution), this version, by director Steven Meerdink and company, provides the character with a closeup that should prove unnerving to behold. (Photo by Laurie Etchen)
Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Starts: May 31. Continues through June 23, 2013

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