Sunset Boulevard – Reviews
Chicago Tribune – Chris Jones
THREE OUT OF FOUR STARS
“TRANSFIXING…STRONG…YOU REALLY SHOULD COME WATCH HER FLY”
Hollis Resnik and Norma Desmond: What took that so long?
And why — especially if this Chicago musical-theater star of decades standing has entertained you over the years — would you not want to see what happens when these two creative colossi collide?
Especially since the result is so transfixing.
I have seen many great actresses play the central role of the washed-up silent-movie star, dreaming of an epic return without realizing the world has changed: Patti LuPone, Linda Balgord, Glenn Close, Petula Clark, Paula Scrofano. Resnik dives the deepest of any of them into Norma’s specific mental pain. Her withered, demented diva is as vulnerable as she can be, and the part is, as always, exquisitely well sung.
Weber’s production is strong in that area, too, with Michelle Lauto appearing as a richly drawn and beautiful sung Betty Schaeffer, the alternate safe harbor for Billy Rude’s Joe.
Weber’s staging, which really does capture a lot of the fluid spectacle of the melodramatic material while expertly capitalizing on what you can do in this space; Jeff Kmiec’s design is very shrewd and practical and Bill Morey uses some gorgeous woven materials in his costume design.
You really should come watch her fly, and fall.
Chicago Sun-Times – Catey Sullivan
THREE AND A HALF OUT OF FOUR STARS
“FILLED WITH MARVELOUS PERFORMANCES”
Director Michael Weber’s take on the iconic stage musical is filled with marvelous performances.
[Billy] Rude is marvelous as Joe, the would-be screenwriter who has been in Hollywood just long enough to curdle his own dreams. Rude’s Joe is cynical from the start, and by the time he launches into the title tune that opens the second act, he’s made bitter peace with selling his soul and his body for a swimming pool and an expensive wardrobe. As vocals go, Rude is in his prime, never more so than in that haunting and angry “Sunset Boulevard.”
Weber’s detailed direction vividly captures clashing visions of Hollywood
Jeff Kmiec’s marvelously cinematic set contrasts the expansive, empty grandeur of Norma’s mansion with the youthful bustle of Schwab’s Pharmacy. The ensemble could use a few more players, but Shanna VanDerwerker’s choreography creates a story for every “extra” on the set.
WTTW – Hedy Weiss
“GRAND-SCALE, YET WINNINGLY INTIMATE PRODUCTION”
Chicago’s formidable Porchlight Music Theatre opened its 25th anniversary season with a grand-scale, yet winningly intimate production of “Sunset Boulevard” that deftly incorporates the story’s cinematic and theatrical elements, and taps into both its wildly melodramatic moments and its aching realism. And director Michael Weber has gathered an A-list cast led by Hollis Resnik as Norma.
Billy Rude, a tall, thin actor with a fine voice who expertly captures his character’s angry, opportunistic impulses
… veteran Chicago actor Larry Adams in an absolutely brilliant vocal and dramatic turn
Aaron Benham’s musical direction (and his orchestra of seven), is superb, as is the show’s large ensemble of supporting actors.
And Jeffrey D. Kmiec (unquestionably the hardest working set designer in Chicago) has crafted everything from a gilded staircase, to Paramount Pictures’ front gate, to Schwabs’ Pharmacy and soda fountain (the popular hangout for young Hollywood dreamers), while Bill Morey’s costumes suggest both the glamor and the struggle in America’s often cruel dream capital.
Post-Tribune – Phil Potempa
“FRESH AND NEW AND INVENTIVE”
Weber’s creative talent shared the spotlight with the cast of his latest production, a fresh and new and inventive run.
[Hollis] Resnik strikes a great balance as the once-worshiped screen icon who can also be cold and calculating when making demands on those who surround her, mostly Billy Rude, who dazzles as down-on-his-luck screenwriter Joe Gillis, the role played by William Holden in the original film.
PictureThisPost.com – Susan Lieberman
TOP PICKS FOR THEATER IN CHICAGO NOW
As the silent film era star Norma Desmond, Hollis Resnik fuses madness, elegance and heartbreak. Porchlight’s artistic director Michael Weber stages the explosive May-December relationship between Norma and Joe with compact excitement. Together with a uniformly strong cast, the Chicago director and actress sync their talents to build the show’s narrative of illusion and loss.
Resnik’s mature vocal power and the fine ensemble that surrounds her makes it a moving night of theater.
PicksinSix- Ed Tracy
“A GRIPPING REVIVAL… THE SHOW TO SEE ON STAGE IN CHICAGO”
There is commanding power in Resnik’s penetrating gaze—at once a sum of all that has come before and is to follow. You can “feel the magic in the making.”
Resnik, with an electrifying performance as the flickering star trapped in a world that has passed her by, leads a superb cast for Porchlight Music Theatre’s 25th anniversary season opener, a gripping revival of “Sunset Boulevard”
Brilliantly evoking the gritty world of film noir from Billy Wilder’s memorable 1950 film, Porchlight artistic director Michael Weber delivers a chilling, dark and lonely slice of Hollywood’s bygone days
Making his main stage debut, Rude is flat-out terrific in the role of Gillis.
Lauto’s stunning vocals are a highlight and match perfectly with Rude’s, and their star-crossed love story feels moving and real.
Adams delivers a rich and memorable performance as Max.
David Girolmo stands out as Cecil B. DeMille, and the ensemble bustles with youthful enthusiasm and talent–making Porchlight’s “Sunset Boulevard” the show to see on-stage in Chicago
TheFourthWalsh.com – Katy Walsh
“WITH ONE LOOK HOLLIS RESNIK CAPTIVATES”
Director Michael Weber has cast the perfect Chicago star for the lead. With One Look Hollis Resnik captivates! She is irresistible in her art deco inspired wardrobe (Costume Designer Bill Morey). Resnik knows she deserves the respect allotted a star! She owns the room as she walks in with confidence and flourish. Yet, Resnik’s Norma also has a fragility that elicits empathy.
This world’s waited long enough. Resnick has come home at last!
StageandCinema.com – Larry Bommer
“RESNIK IS FULLY WORTHY OF SUCCEEDING GLORIA SWANSON, LET ALONE GLENN CLOSE OR BETTY BUCKLEY”
But, as shown in Porchlight Music Theatre’s surprisingly intimate staging, industriously orchestrated by Artistic Director Michael Weber, even with a story this sprawling, less is more. We need our close-ups too.
At the vortex of the musical’s dueling time trips is Chicago icon Hollis Resnik. Portraying a presence as palpable as any of Norma’s celluloid fantasies, however self-caricatured in Grand Guignol excess, Resnik is every inch a discarded diva who will literally kill for a second chance. Resnik is fully worthy of succeeding Gloria Swanson, let alone Glenn Close or Betty Buckley. Her stand-out features would please every focus as she mugs up a storm (“We didn’t need words; we had faces”) and tears into her show-stopping “As If We Never Said Goodbye” as if no one sang it before. “With One Look” she can win us over and seduce far more than any lousy camera.
Billy Rude makes a handsome, adept Joe, his pessimism balanced against his youthful ambition.
As Norma’s ex-husband/director Max, the arch protector who will not allow “the greatest star of all” to “surrender,” Chicago favorite Larry Adams combines a glorious basso profundo with a magisterial depiction of dogged devotion.
Michelle Lauto radiates perfect perkiness as Joe’s more suitable sweetheart.
David Girolmo makes a dignified and wonderfully compassionate Cecil B. DeMille.
Everything on this busy, beautiful stage of the Ruth Page Center more than justifies this theatrical validation of a cinematic treasure.
BroadwayWorldChicago.com – Rachel Weinberg
“ONE WILD RIDE OF A MUSICAL EVENING”
With direction by Michael Weber, Porchlight Music Theatre’s production of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s SUNSET BOULEVARD provides one wild ride of a musical evening.
Hollis Resnik conveys all of Norma’s mania and desperation in a star-worthy performance. Though Norma has long faded from the limelight by the time audiences meet her in SUNSET BOULEVARD, Resnik commands the stage with ease.
Michelle Lauto, always a delight to see in a Porchlight production, delivers as usual. She ensures that she doesn’t play Betty too sweet and innocent and focuses in on the character’s intelligence and ideals. Lauto’s vocals are also crystalline, and all her songs are shining moments.
Larry Adams is simultaneously stoic and empathetic as Norma’s servant Max von Mayerling, displaying the unending devotion he has to Norma.
Above all, Hollis Resnik’s Norma is what gives this SUNSET BOULEVARD its legs.
NewCity – Aaron Hunt
“RESNIK IS THE REVELATION WE ALL EXPECTED HER TO BE…”
Director Michael Weber’s cast is first rate, from the busy ensemble to the leading players.
The biggest reason to see “Sunset Boulevard” is to bask in the glow of the Norma Desmond of the evening. If you don’t have a Norma, you don’t program this show. Chicago favorite Hollis Resnik is the revelation we all expected her to be in this role from the moment Porchlight announced the casting. Resnick’s Norma tiptoes across a tightrope strung between infantilized fragility and uncompromising strength. With this character there is always a question of just how much whack-a-doodle needs to be tossed into the cauldron to be both respectful of the tale’s genesis and honest in the telling. Weber and Resnick get the recipe just right.
ChicagoTheatreandArts.com – Jodie Jacobs
THREE AND A HALF STARS
Popular Chicago stage veteran Hollis Resnik has joined such leading ladies as Glenn Close and Patti LuPone to inhabit the delusional figure of Norma Desmond in the musical version of “Sunset Boulevard.”
Resnik does so with such believability and panache as to make viewers wonder if she is able to shed the role when leaving Porchlight Music Theatre each night.
Directed by Michael Weber, the production is a first-rate start to Porchlight’s celebratory 25th season.
Fine acting by an excellent cast plus Bill Morey’s costumes for Desmond and Max place the production in the “must see” category.
Host, “Behind the Curtain,” WGNPlus – Paul Lisnek
Host, “Backstage,” Comcast Network
FOUR OUT OF FOUR STARS
“MASTERFUL NOT-TO- BE-MISSED PERFORMANCE BY HOLLIS RESNIK … PORCHLIGHT DOES IT AGAIN WITH AN UNFORGETTABLE PRODUCTION!”
A masterful not-to- be-missed performance by Hollis Resnik as Norma Desmond anchors this gorgeous production of a classic Tony Award winning Broadway musical that was too long in returning to the Chicago stage. And as only Porchlight can do it, the show returns in a grand manner. The staging, use of projection and (as we have come to expect from every Porchlight production) strong voices and full orchestral sound, creates with Sunset Boulevard a film noir feel that both carries you back to the 1950s and mesmerizes with the Andrew Lloyd Webber score. Billy Rude as the handsome struggling writer Joe Gillis is exactly the strong voice and handsome look you want to see juxtaposed to the aging and forgotten (although she doesn’t know it) Norma Desmond. Strong voices abound, but a special note needs to be made of the operatic and grounding voice of Larry Adams (as Max von Mayerling) and the angelic sound of Michelle Lauto (as Betty Schaefer). Porchlight does it again with an unforgettable production!
AroundtheTownChicago.com – Alan Bresloff
FOUR STARS – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Norma Desmond is played to perfection by Chicago favorite Hollis Resnick, who nails her character from start to finish.
When he [Max Von Mayerling] sings his “New Ways To Dream” and “The Greatest Star of All” you will be tempted to give him a standing ovation. WOW!
A perfect performance by Michelle Lauto, who constantly shows her wide range on our stages
While this is not an easy one to pull off, Weber (Michael) has pulled it off!
ChicagoTheatreAddict.com – Rob Bullen
“This Norma is a panther, caged up and ready to roar.”
Hollis Resnik – one of the greatest, most versatile musical theater actresses in Chicago, or elsewhere…Her Norma is not some pathetic creature or vampire kabuki cartoon. No – this Norma is a panther, caged up and ready to roar. She paces. She wrings her hands. Her eyes constantly dart and glimmer with anticipation.
Michelle Lauto imbues the ambitious Betty Schaefer with fire and drive
And Chicago stage icon Larry Adams is a stellar Max, Norma’s butler with a secret.
I plan to return before its run ends December 8.
ChicagolandTheatreReviews.com – Dan Zeff
THREE OUT OF FOUR STARS
“A career-topping performance”
The first thing a theater needs to successfully revive “Sunset Boulevard” is a star quality Norma Desmond, just like a revival of “Hamlet” requires a star quality melancholy Dane. In 1993 and 1994, the London and Broadway productions of “Sunset Boulevard” featured Patti LuPone and Glenn Close, both international stars. For its revival, the Porchlight theater hired Chicago’s own Hollis Resnik, the obvious choice to play the larger than life Desmond. It will surprise no area theatergoer that Resnik carries the show.
ChicagoonStage.com – Karen Topham
In this one shining moment, and in hundreds more throughout this excellent production,[Hollis] Resnik reminds us why she is one of Chicago’s finest actresses, making Norma her own as much as Glenn Close ever did on Broadway.
[Billy] Rude’s performance is outstanding, to be sure, and he adds a layer or two of darkness to the character that can’t be found in William Holden’s original version, giving Joe a bit more agency in his own situation.
Resnik takes this to heart in a virtuoso performance that might well serve as a lesson on body language and facial expression. In every moment, whether seducing her young gigolo, basking in the studio limelight, or slipping so deep into her delusions that she will never escape, Resnik holds more than Joe captive.
I can’t claim that Norma Desmond is the role of her life when she has played so many memorable parts, but her performance here is absolutely unmissable.
Chicago Theatre & Concert Reviews – Colin Douglas
“ONE OF CHICAGO’S FINEST MUSICALS”
Michael Weber has assembled the perfect cast and supporting crew for his perfect production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s heartbreaking musical.
I predict that Porchlight Music Theatre’s ravishing production will be remembered and talked about for decades to come.
The production is magnificently crafted with detail by a talented crew of theatre artisans and is a perfect fit for the Ruth Page Center for the Arts.
one of the finest casts ever assembled at this venue. Led by the stunning Hollis Resnik as faded silent film star Norma Desmond, in a performance that screams Jeff Award, the cast also includes brilliant and handsome Chicago leading man, Billy Rude, as Joe Gillis. The company also includes golden-voiced Larry Adams, as Max von Mayerling, and the exquisite, multitalented Michelle Lauto, as Betty Schaefer. David Girolmo brings his power and prowess to the role of film director, Cecil B. DeMille; Joe Giovannetti makes a goofy and likable Artie Green; and stage veteran Ronald Keaton is delightful in a multitude of character roles.
From Ms. Resnik’s eloquent phrasing to her most subtle gesture, it’s hard to imagine any other Chicago actress in this role
Michael Weber’s remarkably polished, skillfully acted and sensationally sung production is more than ready for its closeup. With one look, audiences will recognize a stylish, laudable production that will be on everyone’s lips for years to come. If you miss this production you’ll regret not experiencing what may be one of Chicago’s finest musicals of the perfect year.
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin – Julian Frazin
“SHE IS PERFECT”
this most ambitious musical theater company, nationally recognized for bringing classic productions and new works as well as showcasing veteran local performers and emerging future stars to Chicago audiences.
I can’t believe anyone could do it better than Chicago’s own Hollis Resnik.
She is perfect as the self-indulgent, self-centered Norma, played so effectively and ruthlessly that at the end you both pity and resent her at the same time.
Larry Adams is most impressive as Max, Norma’s valet and her protective former director, particularly in his tribute to Norma as he sings “The Greatest Star of All.”
I must also admit it certainly is a wonderful performance piece for the great musical theater divas of our time — and that includes Hollis Resnik.
Chicago Reader – Bill Williams
“RESNIK IS EXCELLENT AS NORMA DESMOND”
Resnik skillfully combines camp grandeur and human vulnerability as the unstable screen queen.
Larry Adams is superb as Norma’s devoted valet and chauffeur Max, an enigmatic man with secrets of his own.
BuzzCenterStage.com – John Accrocco
“POWERFUL…HAUNTING AND DISTURBING”
First and foremost, this is Hollis Reznik’s show and her Norma Desmond isn’t going to let you forget it.
With her powerful voice and electrifying acting choices, Reznik makes this her own. The result is haunting and disturbing.
Windy City TImes – Jonathan Abarbanel
“JUST RIGHT…LOOKS GRAND AND MOVES FLUIDLY”
Porchlight’s Sunset Boulevard is just right; a musically lush yet perverse take on Hollywood, as it must be, based on Billy Wilder’s deservedly-famous 1950 cinema noir. It must flow like the movie, too, which is tricky on a stage lacking wings or a fly loft, but director Michael Weber and his designers meet the challenge.
The show looks grand and moves fluidly, thanks to Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s wide, angled set and Maggie Fullilove-Nugent’s lighting.
But inquiring readers really want to know about leading Chicago diva Hollis Resnik as Norma Desmond. This experienced and skillful artist gives a deep, powerful, nuanced performance as the faded star.
Special shout-outs to Bill Morey’s spot-on period costumes and Anthony Churchill’s superb movie poster projections, both treats by themselves.
ChicagoStageStandard.com – Mary Crylen
THREE OUT OF FOUR STARS
Resnik’s performance is fantastic! Her profound ability to engulf the audience in her character really shook up the production. The portrayal of this old hollywood shut out is mesmerizing.
Sunset Boulevard by Porchlight is definitely a recommended performance and much worth seeing the intrigue and incredible talent for yourself!
Le Bon Travel & Culture – Betty Mohr
“EXQUISITELY DIRECTED BY MICHAEL WEBER..RESNIK IS A SENSATION”
Exquisitely directed by Michael Weber, the show features old movie posters, Hollywood film sets, video projections of the heyday of the glamorous silent-screen era. It creates the perfect backdrop for Hollis Resnik’s marvelous performance.
Resnik is a sensation in the role. She is so poignant and so compelling as the manipulative Norma, that she brings a heartbreaking intensity to the tragic despair and loneliness of the neurotic diva.
In the last few years, Porchlight Theatre has been presenting exceptional musicals. Now with its production of Sunset Boulevard, it has become the premier musical theater company in Chicago. This is a sensational not-to-miss show!
Let’s Play – Rick McCain
“RESNIK IS BRILLIANT”
Resnik is brilliant as the delusional Desmond with the hauntingly gaze.
Director Michael Weber has pulled together the story’s cinematic and theatrical elements on the intimate stage at Porchlight Theatre with a great team. Aaron Benham’s musical direction with an orchestra of seven is delightful, as is Jeffrey D. Kmiec (the scenic designer) who created a grandeur setting of a gilded staircase, to Schwabs’ Pharmacy and soda fountain, to Paramount Pictures’ front gate, on a small stage with the show’s large ensemble of supporting actors.
PLAYLISTHQ.com – Quinn Delaney
With some musicals, it can be difficult to understand the words or it is tiring having every word sung. This is not the case with this production. The singing is slow and clear. Also, the acoustics in the intimate Ruth Page Center for the Arts are excellent.
Hollis Resnik is superb as Norma Desmond, desperate to return to the spotlight.
Billy Rude is excellent as Joe Gillis, troubled by the choices presented to him. Michelle Lauto is great as Betty, looking for her first big break in Hollywood.
Larry Adams is spectacular as Norma’s servant, who hides many secrets from her. The entire cast sings beautifully.