Petula Clark squeezes everything she can out of Sunset Boulevard
by Rob Roberts
February 7, 2000
French philosopher Michel Foucault and British pop singer Petula Clark both showed up on Canadian stages last week, and it might surprise you to learn which one was in the comedy.
Clark performed at the National Arts Centre, in Ottawa, in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard. Steven Mazey of the Ottawa Citizen described it as "limp and uninspired."
Mazey liked Clark's turn as the forgotten silent film star who lives in a crumbling Hollywood mansion and, more than 25 years after her heyday, still dreams of making a comeback.
"The stage version is a mushy, shallow imitation [of the Billy Wilder movie], but the good news is that Petula Clark, who stars as Norma, is in remarkably fine voice at 67. She sings with warmth, expressiveness and soaring line and she gets just about everything that it's possible to get out of the music.
"In one of the musical's few affecting scenes, Norma visits her old studio and is overcome with emotion. She sings 'As If We Never Said Goodbye,' one of the few songs in the show that isn't instantly forgettable. Clark gives it both power and depth ...
"Lyricists Don Black and Christopher Hampton have transplanted much of the movie's dialogue intact, but it somehow feels leaden and plodding here.
"And their lyrics are often laughable. At the beginning of Act 2, Joe [a young screenwriter Norma falls for] sings Sunset Boulevard, an angry song about shattered illusions. The lyrics, which are sadly typical of most of the show, go something like this: 'Sunset Boulevard, mythic boulevard. Sunset Boulevard, brutal boulevard. Sunset Boulevard, tempting boulevard.'
"Not much rhymes with boulevard, apparently."