“I am big! It’s the pictures that got small” : a review of Sunset Boulevard in concert at home

The time is now to support the arts from home

Being a dance teacher and choreographer by trade – in usual circumstances – that is when we aren’t in the middle of a global pandemic – I take great pleasure in frequent visits to the theatre. It is one of the things I have missed greatly these past few months and I am really looking forward to the day when I can sit in a crowded auditorium listening to the orchestra tuning their instruments and that general, gently excited hubbub of conversation that seems synonymous with visits to the theatre.

Until then, we all have to make do with alternatives and, if you have not already, I encourage you all to support the arts and the performers by accessing the online and streamed versions of popular shows.

It was my partner’s birthday last week as a treat from one of her friends she received streamed access to ‘Sunset Boulevard: In Concert At Home. The stage show, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black, premiered in 1991 is based on the 1950 film-noir cinematic classic featuring Gloria Swanson. The story follows the demise and ultimate mental breakdown of silent movie star Norma Desmond. The audience are introduced to her during her autumnal years where she meets and takes a shine to struggling writer – Joe Gillis – some 30 years plus years her junior.

It’s a dark and tragic tale of a once superstar abandoned by both her fans and Paramount Pictures – the studio that made her famous. Refusing to let go of the past she continues to plan her Hollywood comeback epitomised by the line “I am big! It’s the pictures that got small.”

Watching the show, sitting there on the sofa bed in our comfies eating crackers and cheese was a very different feel to sitting dressed for an evening out in an auditorium but what a treat we had. Leicester Curve never fails to disappoint in its theatrical productions, but I must admit I did wonder how this could possibly work. While all actors were in full costume, the set was simply the theatre itself. The auditorium, the stage, even under the auditorium seating was used as a space for the actors to perform. Somehow, through the use of a number of cameras and the genius of director Nikolai Foster we were transported to 1940’s Hollywood. The actors and orchestra rehearsed and performed adhering to social distancing guidelines. Somehow, magically this didn’t get in the way of the storyline – it was easier to accept the more intimate scenes than I thought it would be.

This was in no small part down to the combination of Foster’s direction and the cast of talented individuals who conveyed this story to us. All of the actors were absolutely amazing in their performances, the emotion was conveyed effortlessly through Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stunning music and Don Black’s ingenious lyrics. The result was a very enjoyable evening watching some of the creme de la creme of theatre land.

Our theatre venues and talented performers need our support now more than ever. Downloading, buying and streaming live shows is one way we can continue to support the industry at their time of crisis. What we as a society will need – when we come out if this pandemic – is the continuation of the rich, talented and theatrical tradition for which this country is celebrated.


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