I am big!

by Arts

Jacyszyn shines bright in Sunset Boulevard

The Okanagan’s theatre scene shines bright with the current production of Sunset Boulevard at the Kelowna Actors Studio, running until June 18.

Set against the backdrop of Hollywood’s golden age, the classic musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, tells the poignant tale of Norma Desmond (Anna Jacyszyn), a faded silent film star and Joe Gillis (Josh Richardson), a struggling young screenwriter.

The city’s little theatre company continues its big tradition to bring home the bedazzle of Broadway. Jacyszyn’s performance is worthy of any Broadway stage, as the gem of Kelowna was shining bright the night of the premier. (Patrons will also respect the nod to Glen Close, who played the role of Norma Desmond in the Broadway premiere in 1994, with a look-a-like marque poster featuring the hometown star.)

Actors Studio succeeds in recreating a sweeping, cinematic quality that reflects the golden age of Hollywood — in all its grandeur and drama. Under the careful direction of Randy Leslie, the vintage black and white movies come to life in the monochromatic stage and costumes.

The acting and stage blocking echo the staccato flicker of the cinematography of the period, with the cast moving up and down the dual staircases, stepping into action and back to stillness in mannequin-like poses. Props of moving car headlights, the integration of silent film, and flashing camera lights all add to the effect.

In perfect pitch and form, the Chorus becomes a flurry of polka-dotted and checked dresses and pinstriped suits. The only true drop of colour on this black and white canvas is the glimmer of Norma’s (Jacyszyn) eyeshadow and her red crown of locks.

The effect— and acting— is incredibly dramatic.

It’s worth heading to the show simply to take in Jacyszyn in the stunning wardrobe of Norma. The studio spared no expense in showcasing the opulence of the era.

Photos by Glenna Turnbull

Jacyszyn’s vocal range and magnetic stage presence are nothing short of extraordinary. With every note she sings, her passion and raw emotion resonate deeply with the audience. “When I speak it’s with my soul, I can play any role,” she sings out, the lyrics a testament to the undeniable truth that leaves us in awe.

A foil to Norma is the refreshing, youthful, and optimistic aspiring screenwriter Miss Shafer (Laura Bentley) and a bright light on the Kelowna stage. We need to hear more of the angelic voice of Bentley.

Sunset Boulevard delves into the dark underbelly of the Hollywood film industry; the characters’ journeys are rich with nuances, exploring the complexities of their desires, ambitions, and inner demons. At times, Jacyszyn’s performance channels the Shakespearean tragedy of Lady Macbeth.

On a final note, we all love Max. But we’ll let you meet Max for yourself. Sunset Boulevard runs in Kelowna until June 18. Tickets at kelownaactorsstudio.com.

Top photo by Dan Lionello.