Charm and Spirit: “Sunset Blvd”

Photo credit: Pentucket Players, Inc

presented by Pentucket Players, Inc.
Sunset Boulevard

Book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Based on the 1950 film of the same title
Movie directed and co-written by Billy Wilder, produced and co-written by Charles Brackett

Rogers Center for the Arts
Merrimack College
North Andover, MA
Review is based on the performance of Nov. 24 at 8pm.
Performances ran Nov. 16 – 24, 2012
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Review by Kitty Drexel

(North Andover) Sunset Boulevard is based on the classic 1950 American noir film directed and co-written by Billy Wilder, and produced and co-written by Charles Brackett. It is named after the boulevard that runs through Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. William Holden played unlucky screenwriter Joe Gillis. Screen legend Gloria Swanson starred as the silent film star Norma Desmond. She ensnares Gillis with the luxury and excess only oodles of money can buy. What starts as an opportunity to reclaim their successes ends in tragedy for both.

Pentucket Players present a spirited production of “Sunset Boulevard.” They are a passionate community theater company that served both the music and script well. To be blunt, the company does not offer the same professional level of theatre as its neighbors in the big city but they do offer the same dedication to their performance. Their voices are enjoyable if a little rough around the edges. The sets are mostly backdrops but contain pleasantly surprising elements of fine detail. The scenes are well-paced with creative staging by director John R. Buzzell. Music director Alan Freedman runs an attentive pit orchestra. The cast is clearly having a good time on stage and extends the audience to do the same from their seats. Most importantly, the message of Sunset Boulevard is delivered without distraction; the essence of the music is retained.

April Foley was perfect as Norma Desmond. She captured the desperation of the aging beauty superbly. Her spiral into madness was captivating and rife with heartbreak. Despite Desmond’s distinct removal from reality, Foley makes her character lovable. It was just lovely to see her and her co-stars bring this tragic story to life on stage.

This was not an award winning production but good entertainment doesn’t have to be. Otherwise, MTV or daytime TV, for that matter, wouldn’t have an audience. Pentucket Players, Inc. performed with sincerity and the result was very charming. I look forward to seeing what they do next.

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