Well, BrassNeck Theatre Company have done it again!

They are in my opinion one of the best local amateur theatre groups in this area and over the last few years have given the theatre going public some magnificent productions. And this current production of Sunset Boulevard is no exception. Whilst classed as an “amateur” group, BrassNeck are 100 per cent professional in all that they do, whether this is singing, acting or their choreography.

Sunset Boulevard is an Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical with lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton.

Both haunting and desperately sad, Sunset Boulevard revolves around the former star of the silent screen era, Norma Desmond. Ageing and largely forgotten for years, she lives in her dilapidated mansion in Hollywood with her butler and chauffeur, Max von Mayerling. Lost in her memories, she is stirred into action when struggling screenwriter, Joe Gillis, suddenly enters her life. Joe is down on his luck and struggling to escape debt collectors. Norma offers him a room and board if he agrees to edit her incomprehensible script of Salome, a movie she has written and in which she wants to star as the teenage seductress. Norma is convinced that she is still as beautiful and in demand as ever. This misguided belief is sustained by Max, who writes fake fan letters to her and shields her from the realities of the much changed, modern-day movie business. Later, when Norma learns of Joe’s secret work writing another film script and love affair with the young Betty Schaefer, her fragile mental state completely breaks down and she fatally shoots Joe as he tries to leave the mansion. With no grip on reality any longer, Norma grandly sweeps down the stairs to the waiting police, declaring, “And now, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

Every member of this 18 strong cast play their part in making this such a memorable production but I must highlight certain individual performances as well. Firstly, Laura Judge in the role of Norma. What can I say about this performance? Sensational, outstanding, fab-u-lous as Craig Revell-Harwood would say. Laura’s acting and singing are simply out of this world. Her rendition of “As If We Never Said Goodbye” will bring a tear to your eye and a lump to your throat. Laura is extremely well supported by Ben Tomlinson as Joe. Ben also has a very big role to play in the storyline and he plays this with aplomb. Again an excellent singer and actor Ben brings all his many years on the stage to bear and produces a terrific performance. I particularly liked his renditions of “Sunset Boulevard” and his duet of “The Perfect Year” with Laura.

Supporting the two main principals were Andrew Walton as Max and Emily Kyle as Betty. Andrew’s superb bass-baritone voice was brought to the fore in his rendition of “The Greatest Star Of All” whilst Emily brought all her experience as a drama teacher into the role of Betty. Her duets of “Girl Meets Boy” and “Too Much In Love To Care” with Tom were excellent.

Royston Bayfield has once again produced an outstanding show ably supported by Ben Kyle as Musical Director and Stuart Hutchinson as choreographer. Together they have created an outstanding production which I am sure will be talked about for many weeks and months to come. There are still some tickets left for the final four performances, particularly for Saturday’s matinee. Tickets are available via the company’s website at http://brassnecktheatre.com/ or by phone on 0113 250 5011.

by John Burland