FEEL THE MAGIC IN THE MAKING.
Absorbing the spotlight’s glow, Norma Desmond (Hollis Resnik) clutches desperately to memories of the glory days during her return to Paramount Studios: poised and resplendent, equal parts sultry siren and terrified child. There is commanding power in Resnik’s penetrating gaze—at once a sum of all that has come before and is to follow. You can “feel the magic in the making.”
Resnik, with an electrifying performance as the flickering star trapped in a world that has passed her by, leads a superb cast for Porchlight Music Theatre’s 25th anniversary season opener, a gripping revival of “Sunset Boulevard” that debuted Tuesday at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts.
Unfolding in the tarnished opulence of the aging diva’s Hollywood mansion over six months during the 1949 holiday season and then into early 1950, the story revolves around her tempestuous attraction to Joe Gillis (Billy Rude), a down-and-out screenwriter, and the role her servant, Max (Larry Adams), plays in perpetuating her film legacy.
As his personal freedom slips away, Gillis falls for Betty Schaefer (Michelle Lauto), a writer who is engaged to his friend Artie (Joe Giovannetti). The love of the two writers seems doomed from the start. Once their relationship is exposed, there are few choices left for Gillis, and fewer still for the enraged Desmond.
Brilliantly evoking the gritty world of film noir from Billy Wilder’s memorable 1950 film, Porchlight artistic director Michael Weber delivers a chilling, dark and lonely slice of Hollywood’s bygone days with a seasoned creative team that includes Jeffrey D. Kmiec (set), Bill Morey (costumes), Maggie Fullilove-Nugent (lighting), Robert Hornbostel (sound) and Anthony Churchill (projections). The haunting Andrew Lloyd Webber score—with lyrics and book by Chris Hampton and Don Black—is under the musical direction and conducted by Aaron Benham.
Making his main stage debut, Rude is flat-out terrific in the role of Gillis. Lauto’s stunning vocals are a highlight and match perfectly with Rude’s, and their star-crossed love story feels moving and real. Adams delivers a rich and memorable performance as Max. David Girolmo stands out as Cecil B. DeMille, and the ensemble bustles with youthful enthusiasm and talent–making Porchlight’s “Sunset Boulevard” the show to see on-stage in Chicago.
PORCHLIGHT MUSIC THEATRE
HOLLIS RESNIK in
through December 8
THE RUTH PAGE CENTER FOR THE ARTS
1016 N. DEARBORN
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