Francesca Bitonti as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, which hits the McPherson Playhouse stage May 5 to 14. David Lowes photo.

Francesca Bitonti as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, which hits the McPherson Playhouse stage May 5 to 14. David Lowes photo.

Operatic society takes on sounds of Andrew Llyod Webber

Sunset Boulevard hits the McPherson Playhouse stage May 5 to 14.

Tim Collins

VICTORIA NEWS

On May 5, the Victoria Operatic Society will raise the curtain on its latest offering, the Victoria premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s, Sunset Boulevard.

The production spins an arresting tale of faded glory and unfulfilled ambition in the person of Norma Desmond, a silent movie star in the new age of “talkies” whose career has dissolved in all but her own mind.

“Norma is so into herself, but you have to understand that she’s experienced her own trauma. How do you go from having all the attention, the adulation, and then find yourself cast aside? Her solution was to cocoon herself in the past…go back to a safer, happier time…some place she could feel secure,” said Francesca Bitonti, who takes on the Norma Desmond role within this production.

Desmond’s sequestered fantasy existence wherein she is still a big star, has her a virtual prisoner in her dilapidated Hollywood mansion. That existence is disrupted by the arrival of a down-and-out Hollywood screenwriter, Joe Gillis, setting the stage for a tragic tale of hope, failure, and unrequited love. Webber manages to capture that storyline with a musical score that is at times uplifting and at other times reflective of the tragedy of the situation.

“The songs in this production are so incredibly moving and touching and reflect the many layers of this deep and powerful story,” explained Bitonti.

Webber’s Sunset Boulevard is based on the Academy Award winning classic 1950 Billy Wilder film noir of the same name. The film inspired Webber to bring the story to the stage in 1992 through his musical score (with a book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton). The production has enjoyed a series of long runs internationally, to critical acclaim.

Sunset Boulevard also stars Jeffrey Stephan as Joe Gillis, with Robert Mitchell as Desmond’s servant Max Von Mayerling, Ashley Ling as Betty Schaefer, Darren Ratgaber as Artie Shaw, Craig Wilson as Sheldrake, Jaymes Goodman as Cecil B. DeMille and Douglas Crockett as Manfred. They are joined by a 20-person ensemble cast, playing more than 50 characters.

Sunset Boulevard runs from May 5 to 14 at the McPherson Playhouse. Tickets start at $21.75 (discounts available for students and seniors) and are available at the McPherson Playhouse Box Office (250-386-6121) or online at rmts.bc.ca.

editor@vicnews.com

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