Nicole Scherzinger's Unique Spin On Sunset Bouelvard Sparks Huge Reaction From Critics

The Pussycat Dolls star takes the lead as Norma Desmond in this revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's classic musical.
Nicole Scherzinger as Norma Desmond in Sunset Bouelvard
Nicole Scherzinger as Norma Desmond in Sunset Bouelvard
The Jamie Lloyd Company

Sunset Boulevard, the award-winning musical based on the classic movie of the same name, is currently undergoing a revival in London’s West End.

The show’s limited 16-week long run at the Savoy Theatre features former Pussycat Dolls frontwoman Nicole Scherzinger as fading Hollywood starlet Norma Desmond, a character previously portrayed by greats like Patti LuPone and Glenn Close.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original show sees Norma drawing the struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis into her delusional world, in which she dreams of returning to the limelight.

Director Jamie Lloyd has totally reinvented the show in its latest revival, with a more stripped-back production in his trademark style, and large-scale video projections forming part of the show.

Critics have now had their say on the production, with Nicole being singled out for near-unanimous praise. Here’s what the reviews are saying...

“Nicole Scherzinger absolutely bloody smashes it as Hollywood diva Norma Desmond… It’s a physically and emotionally exposing performance. Barefoot in a clingy slip, Scherzinger is often either isolated on stage, writhing on the floor or has her sculpted bone structure and pleading eyes blown up on a huge, tilted screen.

“She’s not afraid to look absurd, or histrionic, and finds a new truth and even dignity in the character as a result.”

“When [Nicole Scherzinger] lets loose with her lungs, this creature from the pre-talkies attains the shattering force of a sonic boom. Have the lonely diva’s big numbers ever been rendered with such heart-stopping immensity?

“As the increasingly mad-eyed femme fatale’s foil, Tom Francis’s Joe is cocky, wary, beguiled, defeated. The unrelentingly stark evening has its longueurs, but it’s hard not to salute Scherzinger’s unmistakable triumph or fall in love with Lloyd Webber’s satisfyingly sinister opus once again.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 12: Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and Nicole Scherzinger attend the press night after party for "Sunset Boulevard" at The Savoy Hotel on October 12, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 12: Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and Nicole Scherzinger attend the press night after party for "Sunset Boulevard" at The Savoy Hotel on October 12, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Dave Benett via Getty Images

"[Scherzinger is] the mercurial heart of Lloyd’s often kitsch, always unsettling meditation on fame.

"An onstage camera constantly follows her, projecting her face onto the wall behind her, cinema-style – and she can’t resist it, making campy little nods to the audience, pulling grotesque faces of exaggerated tragedy, then breaking into volleys of splits like an attention-hungry stage school kid."

The Stage (5/5)

"[Scherzinger] is stunning, yet it is also a courageous portrayal, devoid of vanity.

"[She] is unafraid of looking unlovely; she is often funny or ridiculous, and sometimes terrifying, and while her voice, a blend of honey and ground glass, is mighty, she also contorts it into howls of ugly desperation and roars of delusional grandiosity."

"Scherzinger powerfully conveys Norma’s unhealthy dependence on the camera. When she visits a movie set and is hit by a spotlight, she bathes in it as though it’s life-giving sunshine…

"Though her voice isn’t terribly controlled (she blasts the low notes, wavers on the break, then gets softer, and swallows the lyrics), there’s a go-for-broke quality that somehow works. She hits the money notes with X Factor-esque triumph."

"Scherzinger neither channels Gloria Swanson’s queenliness nor Glenn Close’s imperious yet humane Norma from 2016. Instead she is hammy, monstrous and antic in her narcissism, preening at the camera, flashing Instagram pouts and explicitly performing vulnerability.

"Even though she comes so far downstage that we feel physical intimacy, she is flatly drawn and devoid of any humanity – a horror film succubus or murderous gorgon who would literally kill for another 15 minutes of fame."

The Times (3/5)

"You have to salute her courage in taking on the legacy of Patti LuPone et al. This audacious production from the enfant terrible Jamie Lloyd will no doubt pull in audiences purely on the strength of Scherzinger’s name.

"She looks fantastic, although that isn’t necessarily an advantage when you are portraying a star whose best days are far behind her. But in the end this is a show that exposes her limitations as an actress and a singer."

Sunset Boulevard is running until 6 January at the Savoy Theatre, London. Tickets are available now.


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