Sunset Boulevard: don't miss it

Palo Alto Players present….
SUNSET BOULEVARD a musical masterpiece
Stardom isn't a profession; it's an accident.

The Palo Alto Players’ production of SUNSET BOULEVARD is an exquisite piece of theater on every level. Director Matthew Mattei designed a professional and gripping production that is much more than the wonderfully talented actors singing on stage or Andrew Lloyd Webber’s powerful score. Thanks to choreographer Robyn Tribuzi, every action is a synchronized, choreographed dance with each character in perfect step. Patrick Klein’s scenic designs never take away from the action on stage; indeed, they are the perfect foil to heighten the mood and meld the action, music and movement into an artistic whole. The lighting was created by Carolyn Foot and it is just right…very like a chiaroscuro painting that highlights the uneasy, eerie feeling that pulsates beneath Joe Gillis’s (Ashley Simms) relationship with Norma Desmond and her butler/ protector, Max Von Mayerling (Russ Bohard). Annmarie Martin is Norma Desmond, a silent movie star whose moment in the spotlight is gone. She cannot come to terms with her reality: she was once a famous personality beloved by millions and now only a handful recognize her name. Her character borders on psychotic: a madwoman obsessed with her own lost grandeur. Martin plays Desmond to the hilt, exaggerating every emotion and yet convincing us she is real. Mayerling is her former director and husband, her butler and her self appointed savior. He believes in her talent and the strength of his belief protects his mistress from herself. He sings “The Greatest Star of them All,” and you realize the immense scope of what Norma Desmond once was and feel the tragedy of her descent into an oblivion she cannot accept. His song is more than its words or its music…it is a cry against the fickleness of time. When Martin’s Norma Desmond sings “Surrender” the power and emotion in her voice mesmerizes the audience. She is unforgettable.

One would expect to see as lavish and opulent a production as this one on much bigger stages with far more professional actors and production staff. This SUNSET BOULEVARD is a must see for anyone who wants to lose themselves in music , dance and dialogue so closely meshed that they all seem as one. Each scene melts into the next; the pace is just right, the mood enhanced by the contrasting use of dim light, transparent curtains and projections of Sunset Boulevard and the car Joe Gillis drives to escape his debtors. Courtney Hatcher strikes just the right note of the idealistic ingénue and aspiring writer who falls in love with the kept Joe Gillis because she believes in his talent. She never descends into maudlin sentimentality; she is the lovely “girl next door” that Joe can never have because he has bought into the sick debauchery his mistress lavishes upon him even as she imprisons him.

Director Mattei has brought SUNSET BOULEVARD to life with imagination, creativity and sensitivity to the underlying psychological forces of the plot. Every member of this cast and crew are to be lauded for a magnificent accomplishment.

SUNSET BOULEVARD continues until November 21, 2010, Thursdays –Saturdays at 8:00 pm and 2:30 p.m. Sundays at the Lucy Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, California, 94301
Tickets $23-$32 with student and senior discounts.
650 329 0891 or