‘Sunset Boulevard’ starts Porchlight season with Hollywood flair

 

 (L to R) Hollis Resnik as Norma Desmond and Billy Rude as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard at Porchlight Music Theatre .(Photo by Michael Courier )
(L to R) Hollis Resnik as Norma Desmond and Billy Rude as Joe Gillis in
Sunset Boulevard at Porchlight Music Theatre .(Photo by Michael Courier )

3 1/2 stars

Popular Chicago stage veteran Hollis Resnik has joined such leading ladies as Glenn Close and Patti LuPone to inhabit the delusional figure of Norma Desmond in the musical version of “Sunset Boulevard.”

Resnik does so with such believability and panache as to make viewers wonder if she is able to shed the role when leaving Porchlight Music Theatre each night.

A 1993 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical with book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, the stage show is based on a 1950 Billy Wilder film noir about a one-time silent screen star desperate for a comeback.

Her unwitting victim is Joe Gillis (Billy Rude), a struggling Hollywood movie writer who needs the script rewrite job Desmond offers so he can pay off his car loan.

The plot thickens (remember this was a film noir) when he moves from becoming trapped in her fading Sunset Boulevard mansion to accepting his new lifestyle to wanting to break free.

-(L to R) Michelle Lauto as Betty Schaefer and Billy Rude as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard at Porchlight Music Theatre. (Photo by Michael Courier )
-(L to R) Michelle Lauto as Betty Schaefer and Billy Rude as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard at Porchlight Music Theatre. (Photo by Michael Courier )

Complicating the story is aspiring movie writer Betty Schaefer (Michelle Lauto) who continually nudges Gillis to co-write her script. As he escapes the mansion to work with her they fall in love even though she is engaged to his friend, Artie Green (Joe Giovannetti).

Desmond’s butler Max (Larry Adams), in reality her former screen director, Max Von Mayerling, also the star’s first husband, protects her and encourages her delusions.

Directed by Michael Weber,  the production is a first-rate start to Porchlight’s celebratory 25th season.

Jeff Kmiec’s set design and Anthony Churchill’s projections perfectly portray 1949 Hollywood with its many hopeful’s, Paramount’s back lot, Schwab’s Pharmacy and the interior of the Desmond mansion.

Fine acting by an excellent cast plus Bill Morey’s costumes for Desmond and Max place the production in the “must see” category.

But special kudos go to Resnik for her interpretation of “With One Look” and “As if We Never Said Goodbye,” to Adams for “The Greatest Star of All” and to Lauto for “Too Much in Love to Care.”

My only problem with the show was that some of the dialogue was lost in scenes where it was said too fast, shouted too loudly or blurred by music.

The production has been deservedly extended through early December. Dec. 8, 2019.

DETAILS: “Sunset Boulevard” is at Porchlight Music Theatre in the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, through Dec. 8, 2019. Running time: 2 hrs, 15 minutes. For tickets and other information call (773) 777-9884 or visit PortchlightMusicalTheatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

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