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DIRECTOR: Paul Warwick Griffin
CAST: Angela Kilian, Jonathan Roxmouth, James Borthwick, Bethany Dickson, Kyle Grant, Mike Huff, Anton Luitingh and the ensemble
VENUE: Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre
UNTIL: October 20
RATING: 5 stars (out of 5)
Diane de Beer
It’s such a glorious thing when everything comes together so magnificently and that’s why it gets a rare perfect rating.
From the perfect casting to the choreography and costumes, the spectacular set which moves like a phantom in the most miraculous fashion, the music and the sublime voices starting with the powerhouse Kilian/Roxmouth pairing and an inspired Borthwick, it all seems to shimmer from beginning to end.
Toerien has invested in what has become the perfect production pairing of Lingenfelder and Warwick Griffin who work specifically on the bonsai musicals, the classics that are customised and contemporised in such a classy way.
Because they’re staged in this smaller theatre, the intimacy thermometer shoots up a few levels and in this one it works just so magnificently. The drama of it all just sucks you in completely and the almost-three-hour musical goes by in a flash.
But then nothing would go this way if not for the production’s staging and casting.
Hutchinson outdid himself with a set (both the moving and immovable parts) that layers and textures the story and the performances and allowed every-thing to slip into place smoothly.
And the lighting takes on a character as it sets the scene and exposes the way Hollywood displays and disparages its stars.
It’s those nuances and the way they solved the problems with solutions that didn’t only make things work, but actually added to the show in a way that turns special into spectacular.
The melancholy of the story is offset by the sparkle of the Sunset Boulevard set who are constantly on the move as the aged have to make way for the starry-eyed ingenue as the production line constantly moves to keep those frenetic fans ogling and the money rolling in.
This is Kilian’s masterpiece as she tackles the challenge with gusto from the age-resistant movement to the taunting tilt of her head as Norma Desmond, faded star, who doggedly refuses to check reality and clings to her former fame with a determination that’s as desirous as it is dangerous in this fragile and fickle setting.
Her descent from that heavenly staircase says everything about her showy and steely character that wields power and manipulates the little that’s still available to her. The rest she ignores as she shapes her own vision of the world with the help of Max (Borthwick, who reaches new heights with his voice).
There is also the Kilian singing and her ability to interpret and become the character first through the music which she caresses, cajoles or carries when that is what’s required. It’s a riveting performance that extends her range dramatically, which is inspiring to witness.
Roxmouth keeps building on his reputation as he smoothly saunters into the slippery character of the young roué Joe Gillis, who feels he’s not rising fast enough and is further pushed to try to extend his stay in this hellishly tough world where he feels he belongs.
From the way he carries the chip on his young shoulders to the smouldering presence he can seemingly turn on and off at will, Roxmouth gives Gillis that smarmy edge that this kind of character wears like a second coat.
And when he has to hit the notes, whether he’s sharing confidences with the audience, making a laidback Bogart move or has to blast it across the room, he can do it all – blissfully.
The rest of the cast deliver equally as they tell the story in song. It’s one that grabs you by the heart and head and keeps you engaged from start to finish. The shine and final polish has been shaped by genius all around.
It’s one to see.