Review: Sunset Boulevard


by Mike Matthaiakis

Nicole Scherzinger’s portrayal of the faded starlet Norma Desmond in Jamie Lloyd’s revival of “Sunset Boulevard” is nothing short of sensational. Lloyd’s production, tailored around Scherzinger’s persona, cleverly brings the mid-century Hollywood fable into the contemporary spotlight. Scherzinger’s performance is enhanced by her relatability to Norma’s fears of becoming obsolete, drawing parallels to Scherzinger’s own journey from pop stardom to reality TV judging.

The stripped-back, hyper-focused production, filled with smoke and projecting a liminal space, immerses the audience in a psychological horror that unfolds within the minds of the tormented characters. The black-and-white aesthetic nods to film noir, while contemporary costumes add a youthful and relevant touch. The use of handheld cameras and projections enhances the theatricality, reinforcing the overarching theme of real life versus movies.

Scherzinger’s portrayal powerfully captures Norma’s unhealthy dependence on the camera, exemplified when she bathes in the spotlight on a movie set as if it’s life-giving sunshine. Her renditions of iconic songs like “With One Look” and “As If We Never Said Goodbye” showcase a go-for-broke quality, hitting the money notes with triumph despite occasional vocal variations. The production also features a stellar cast, with Tom Francis as the haunted Joe, Grace Hodgett Young as the sweet-voiced Betty, and David Thaxton delivering a show-stopping performance as Max.

Fabian Aloise’s dynamic movement and Jack Knowles’s feverish lighting contribute to the overall excitement and terror of the production. Lloyd skillfully balances postmodern wit with visceral emotion, allowing Lloyd Webber’s gorgeous score to soar afresh. This rendition of “Sunset Boulevard” emerges as a compelling and relevant experience for a new generation, cementing Nicole Scherzinger’s place as a formidable Norma Desmond.

Sunset Boulevard is at the Savoy Theatre through 6 January.