Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sunset Boulevard : Palo Alto Players : Poor Casting and Lackluster Material

Sadly, this is a mess. Where should I begin?

The sound design is so unbalanced that the chamber-sized orchestra drowns out the acoustically enhanced performers. Miscues in lighting, coupled with downright poor design choices, are simply too blatant to ignore. Recitative passages alternate with straight dialogue for no discernable reason to the point of distraction. And with the exception of a few songs, none are moving, let alone memorable.

The two leads, who were most likely chosen for their exceptional vocal acumen, approach the material from two jarringly different styles. It’s hard to imagine a more astounding casting misstep!

Annmarie Martin, despite possessing a wonderful voice of show-stopping potential, is wildly uneven in all facets of her performance. She appears lost, as demonstrated by jarring fits of intensity, all the while clumsily feigning either a Mid-Atlantic or West Coast dialect. One wonders if the character equally perplexed the director!

Ashley Simms, blessed with an oral instrument of pleasant melodious range and warm timbre, is just too immature to play a role that demands such obvious gravitas. While no one expects him to fill the shoes of a William Holden, one cannot fathom why anyone would find him well suited for the part.

On a more positive note, a strong supporting turn, both in singing and acting skill, is thankfully delivered by the sonorous baritone Russ Bohard. Unlike his fellow cast mates, he has a clear grasp of the world his laconic character inhabits and his place within it. Bravo! And honorable mention must be given to the artful set and costume design.

While I wholeheartedly encourage continuing support of the good works typical of the Palo Alto Players, this is not a representative sample of that laudable tradition. Reluctantly, I must recommend that one consider an investment of time and dollars elsewhere.

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