Mercury Summer Stock is now serving up a stunning production of Sunset Boulevard, largely due to nuanced performances, and the remarkable and inventive direction by Pierre-Jacques Brault (Artistic Director/Co-Founder). There is no doubt that this show is an acquired taste. It is narrative in nature, the score contains two massive theatrical hits, but the rest of the score is not something that you will take with you. But what does stay with you are dynamic performances, surrounded by a visual treat that pays homage to the glory days of Hollywood. The production is filled with clever staging and cinematic projections that transport you into the world of Norma Desmond. Sunset Boulevard pays homage to the 1950 film that starred the legendary Gloria Swanson, and William Holden.
The plot revolves around Norma Desmond (fantastic Helen Todd), a silent film star who has faded since the advent of “talkies.” She lives in her decaying mansion in Los Angeles, aided by her servant Max Van Mayerling (appealing Jonathan Bova). When Joe Gillis (wonderful Brian Marshall – Managing Director/Co-Founder), a young screenwriter, cross paths with Desmond, she believes that he can help her make a comeback to the big screen. What results is a convoluted tale of love, betrayal, and tragedy.
Helen Todd as Norma Desmond is wonderful in so many ways. She is the right mix of crazy, despair, drive and loneliness. Todd’s voice is soaring and is textured perfectly for this role, whether she is belting or tapping into her inner depths. She also knows how to work the spectacular wardrobe. At the end of Never Can Say Goodbye, when Todd is singing to those of us in the dark, the room is eerily silent, because the audience was spellbound. Matching Todd in bravado is Brian Marshall as Joe Gillis. Cutting a fine figure right out of the film noir motif, Marshall has a striking and refined voice. The score makes full use of his impressive range. He is in complete command at all times, and tackles the narration with aplomb, while deftly singing and carrying us all on the journey into madness. Excellent work. Jackie Komos as Betty Schafer is gorgeous on many levels, but especially her voice and her acting chops. She built a great character, and delivered the goods to create the romantic tension that was a major component to the tragic end. Jonathan Bova as Max Von Mayerling was perfect for the doting servant for Norma. Protective, sensitive and caring. Nicely composed character, who hides a secret that is delivered passionately. His vocals were a tender addition to the chaos.
The rest of the cast was spot on. Carter Welo as Cecil B. Demille was great in character and look. Jimmy Ferko (Artie Green), Will Sanborn (Sheldrake), and Dan DiCello (Manfred) all contributed beautifully to this epic tale. The ensemble can sing. Beautiful, strong vocals permeated the evening to the delight of all. What a powerful talent pool.
As I said before, this is not a typical theatrical experience. When this was on Broadway, one of the main attractions was the set, which hydraulically could change set locations by literally raising and lowering the set. With that daunting visual, most directors would take a pass at trying to reproduce the show. However, not in the hands of the incredibly inventive Brault. Major kudos for this outstanding production and visual celebration. Devine Musical Direction provided by Eddie Carney. Stage Manager Joseph Pavelek and Assistant Stage Manager Zach Burton called a great show. Brilliant lighting design by Robert Peck, and a great balance provided by Sound Designer Eric Simna.
This is quite a production. Take a chance on something different. You will never walk down a flight of stairs the same way again.
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$15-$18 Reserved Seating
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Regina Hall at Notre Dame College
1857 South Green Road
South Euclid, OH 44121