Tuesday, February 19, 2013

‘Sunset Boulevard’ sheds light on the dark side of fame

Cathy Miller as Norma Desmond

By Cheryl Thornburg

The sun may have set on Norma Desmond’s career, but Cathy Miller’s portrayal of her in “Sunset Boulevard” is brilliant. Miller stars in Genesius Theatre’s current show which is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical adaptation of the silver screen classic that starred Gloria Swanson and William Holden.
Miller takes Norma from fragility to the edge of madness, evoking the audience’s sympathy for the fallen silent film star.
In contrast to her frailty is the suave confidence of the young screenwriter Joe Gillis, played to perfection by Jonathan Browning. He brings strong acting skills and even stronger vocal talent to the role. His voice fills the theater in his solo, “Sunset Boulevard,” and blends beautifully in duets such as “Too Much in Love to Care” with Katie Ott as Betty Schaeffer, a young studio assistant,
Ott’s Betty is upbeat and enthusiastic, and her exquisite soprano adds eloquence to every number she’s in.

Kevin Cooper plays Max, Norma’s devoted servant, who gingerly guides her through the ups and downs of her life.  Cooper is spot on in this role, as a man who keeps his emotions under control and does whatever he has to to protect and care for Norma. Cooper played the lead in last year’s “Man of La Mancha,” and he again gets to demonstrate his vocal prowess in his solo, “The Greatest Star of All.”

Director Christopher Sperat has put together a strong cast including Ryan Katzenmoyer is totally believable as the likeable Artie Green, Joe’s best friend and Betty;s fiancé and Pete Bourey as Mandrake. Stan Durlak seems to land the big name roles – fresh off his success playing Franklin D. Roosevelt in “Annie,” he takes on Cecil B. DeMille in this production.

The ensemble cast adds energy and some of Berks County’s best voices to numbers like “Let’s Have Lunch” and particularly  “This Time Next Year,’ which was a real crowd-pleaser.
The ensemble includes Erin Aregood, Bob Aregood, Marissa Bubbenmoyer, Jason Denlinger, Marjory Ewaid, Kyle Feltenberger, Elizabeth Frederick, Chad Heim, Nate Matz, Luis Pagan-Anderson, Pat Rehr, Kelly Schmehl, Gerry Thibou, and Megan Tice.

Great visual effects and perfect accompaniment by the unseen 15-piece orchestra directed by Dave Neel add to the total package of this production,
In addition to Christopher Sperat, other behind the scenes talents include L J Fecho, Spencer Moss Fecho, Kyle Feltenberger, Jenny Parker Scott, Kathi Christi and Nicole Krick.. In addition to playing Norma, Cathy Miller was costume designer for the show.

“Sunset Boulevard” is a study in contrasts with Hollywood as its backdrop, where the surface is the glamour and glitz of the movies versus its darker side with everyone trying to make it any way they can. It runs through Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Tenth and Walnut Theater. Remaining performances are Wednesday and Thursday Feb. 20 and 21 at 7 p.m. (discount nights),  Friday and Saturday Feb. 22 and 23 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 24 at 2 p.m.,at Genesius Theatre, 153 Walnut St., (10th and Walnut) in Reading. 
To purchase tickets with all major credit cards and get more information visit the website at www.genesiustheatre.org or call 610-373-9500 to purchase tickets with credit cards only. If you need more information, contact the theater at 610-371-8151. Tickets range from $15 to $25 and credit card fees apply. Genesius Theatre is handicap accessible and there is free parking next to the theater (limited space available). This production is rated PG-13 – FOR AGES 13 and up.


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