Norma Desmond and Joe Gillis, played by Petula Clark and John Anthony Norma Desmond and Joe Gillis, played by Petula Clark and John Anthony, dance together on New Year’s Eve during the opening performance of “Sunset Boulevard” Tuesday at Wharton Center.
‘Sunset’ dazzles audience

State News MS&U Writer

Hooray for Hollywood!

That is the sentiment after the powerful and alluring musical “Sunset Boulevard,” which opened Tuesday night at Wharton Center.

Set in the Hollywood frenzy of the 1950s, “Sunset Boulevard” is the dazzling story of Norma Desmond, a washed-up silent film star played by film and recording star Petula Clark.

Although Norma’s career has long disappeared, she still lives in a flamboyant mansion and acts like a worshiped star.

She watches her own films repeatedly and lives vicariously through the movie screen.

One day, a handsome young screenwriter named Joe Gillis, played by John Anthony, ends up at Norma’s doorstep after running away from a bill collector.

When Norma finds out Joe is a screenwriter, she asks him to stay in her dilapidated mansion and help rewrite a screenplay she wrote for herself.

Joe, who is starving for a job, agrees to stay, and the two rewrite the play and soon their relationship blossoms into a love affair.

Norma thinks the script will be made into a movie, but Norma’s butler, Max von Mayerling, played by Allen Fitzpatrick, knows the studio is interested in her luxury car, not her movie.

There is a lot more to the plot, but it would be a shame to say any more because it would ruin the musical’s shocking ending and the intensity of Joe and Norma’s relationship.

It is fun to see the complicated world of Norma unfold.

She is a hard and stubborn woman who expects people to bow at her feet, like they did when she was a distinguished movie star.

Max keeps her ego inflated by sending her fake fan mail to keep her false self-image alive.

Norma’s relationship with Joe torments her emotionally.

It’s difficult not to pity her and be sucked into her desolate world despite her steadfast and blunt mannerisms.

Clark’s emotional and full-hearted portrayal of the distraught Norma is absolutely amazing.

This is her second shot at the show — Clark brought Norma to life in 1995 for more than a year in London’s West End — and her experience is clear.

“Sunset Boulevard” is split into two seemingly different worlds.

There is the dark and isolated world of Norma Desmond, and the glamorous and busy Hollywood fury of screenwriters and struggling actors and actresses.

The Hollywood rush is perfectly captured in the first few scenes with the song “Let’s Have Lunch,” sung by Joe and the entire cast.

The scenes in the busy Hollywood studio provide a colorful relief to Norma’s dark world.

Norma’s butler is the only character who doesn’t mesh well with the production. His eerie movements, which mimic Lurch from “The Adam’s Family,” are sometimes unrealistic, and his role was overly dramatic. He fills in a lot of important details that are necessary to the story, but he often seems out of place.

Overall, “Sunset Boulevard” in an interesting and dramatic look at the glamorous Hollywood world of the 1950s, and life after the glamour dies.

It is easy to see why composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has become a household name.