Sunset Boulevard – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

When your shining star in the firmament no longer glows with glory, how devastating can be the descent out of the heavens? When the rarefied air no longer welcomes you in its warmth of the spotlight, what might you do to regain the top spot as a movie queen? ACT of Connecticut in Ridgefield is ready to reveal the astonishing answers one star may be willing to risk until Sunday, November 19 as “Sunset Boulevard” takes center stage in a royal production.

The iconic silent film star Norma Desmond stands at the top of a staircase contemplating her incredible movie career and remembering her prior glories. Now she worries how she will capture those intoxicating times again. Can she reign as queen once more and, if so, how will she accomplish that marvel? To follow her disillusionment and story of fame, come to ACT for an up close and personal meeting with the former star herself Norma Desmond based on the Billy Wilder film, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton.

Pearl Sun is exotically regal as Norma Desmond as she tries to recapture her famed youth, earning our admiration and pity, as she pens a play about Salome, picturing herself as the adventurous lead, a role she is sure will catapult her back to the top of her game. Norma Desmond refuses to fade into the shadows, to acknowledge her personal “sunset, b ” and when she meets an attractive young writer, Michael Burrell’s Joe Gillis, she seizes upon him as her last best chance to fulfill her wishes of stardom. All she has to do is wait for the call from the famed director Cecil B. DeMille, a disinterested Gary Harger, and her dreams will reach fruition.

Joe Gillis is firmly trapped in her unrealistic scheme, whether he is her ghost writer or lover. When a film company employee, Helen J. Shen’s Betty, reaches out with a real chance for Joe to get his career on track, it results in unfortunate and tragic results. Not even Norma’s faithful servant and protector, George Xavier’s Max, can save the ailing queen and restore her to glory.

Songs like “New Ways to Dream,” “Too Much in Love.” and “The Perfect Year” propel the action. Daniel C. Levine directs this intriguing tale of theater where the past tries to eclipse and change the present, on a beautiful set designed by David Goldstein, with exquisite costumes and wigs designed by Kurt Alger, with snazzy choreography by Sara Brians and melodramatic musical direction by Bryan Perri.

For tickets ($71-79), call ACT of Connecticut, 36 Old Quarry Road, Ridgefield, at 475-215-5497 or online at Performances are Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Additional performances have been added for Sunday, November 5 at 7 p.m. and Friday, November 10 at 2 p.m.

Follow the former star as she dramatically emerges from behind the red velvet curtain to retake her well earned place center stage. Will this be her greatest role ever or a soul crushing defeat?