Star Scene: Sarah Brightman & Tim Draxl, SUNSET BOULEVARD, by Karen Dean

Photo by Mary Boukouvalas

Karen Dean asks Sarah Brightman and Tim Draxl about their favourite, and most challenging, scenes in SUNSET BOULEVARD

Below is Karen Dean’s review of Sunset Boulevard:

Sunset Boulevard Takes Centre Stage In Melbourne’s Spectacular Premier

  Photo by Mary Boukouvalas

The Princess Theatre was exquisitely transformed into the golden age of 1950s Hollywood for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical epic masterpiece, Sunset Boulevard. Based on the 1950 film, this adaptation is notable for its compelling intrigue, tragic characters, consuming obsessions, and vivid depiction of psychological instability.

This polished production showcased a score that set the emotional tone of the production with the Melbourne orchestra delivering a powerful and memorable performance.   The dynamic choreography by Ashley Wallen and lighting designs by Mark Henderson complemented each scene, adding drama and atmosphere.

                                  Photo by Mary Boukouvalas

Morgan Large, the set and costume designer, deserves recognition for his imaginative work. There was a striking contrast between the simplicity of Schwab’s set and the design of Norma’s hauntingly eerie mansion, reflecting her own damaged and flawed personality. Shrouded in shades of grey and darkness, with faded images of a bygone era, this mesmerising set captured the tortured essence of Norma Desmond, while beautifully designed costumes transported the audience back to the 1950s.

Director Paul Warwick Griffin excelled with a versatile cast, providing a dynamic vision for the production. Griffin’s skillful coordination and arrangement of the performance elements managed to bring out the best in each actor and created a powerful, flowing narrative.

Photo by Mary Boukouvalas

Sarah Brightman, playing the original Norma Desmond (portrayed  by Gloria Swanson in the 1950s film), held the audience spellbound from beginning to end. She embodied the character who portrayed the vulnerability of a delusional, faded silent screen star from a forgotten era, driven by the desire to be recognised once again.  Brightman’s performance captured Norma’s complex psyche, balancing moments of fragile desperation with bursts of intense determination.  Her powerful vocal delivery, expressive and commanding acting, brought depth to every scene.

      Photo by Mary Boukouvalas

Memorable scenes include Act 1, where the chance meeting between Joe and Norma showcases her desperation and yearning to reclaim the spotlight. This moment sets the stage, offering glimpses into her mania and wild delusions.   Act 2 brings Norma’s unexpected arrival at Paramount Studios.  This powerful scene highlights her desperate state of mind, again emphasisng her mania and delusions.  The lighting effects intensify the drama, culminating in the final, heart-breaking scene of complete breakdown and paranoia.

Photo By Mary Boukouvalas

Tim Draxl in the lead role of Joe Gillis, the luckless screenwriter, is applauded for his fine acting and versatile, rich vocal range. He performs the role admirably, perfectly complementing Sarah Brightman’s portrayal of Norma Desmond.  Draxl brings depth to Joe’s character, managing to capture the feelings of conflict and desperation. Robert Grubb, in the supporting role of Max Von Mayerling, the loyal and ever-obliging servant and chauffeur, is well cast, delivering both his singing and acting with conviction.  Grubb’s portrayal adds a hidden vulnerability that enriches the storyline. Ashleigh Rubenach, also in a supporting role as Betty Schaefer, portrays the young script editor who falls under the spell of the handsome Joe Gillis. Rubenach brings a fresh and vibrant energy to Betty, making her character’s journey both believable and engaging.

Congratulations to Opera Australia and GWB Entertainment for delivering a celebration of this timeless classic.

Photo by Mary Boukouvalas




Based on the BILLY WILDER film