Sunset Boulevard, Headline Boulevard!

If Danny Mac shines in this production then Ria Jones blazes.

Sunset Boulevard is the story of Norma Desmond a past legend of the silent screen now a recluse in her LA mansion in the title name Sunset Boulevard. Living on past glories and unbeknown to her now forgotten in the wider world coincidentally meets a screenwriter by the name of Joe Gillis – who is out of work, in debt and needing a pay cheque who happens to come across Norma Desmond’s mansion when his car packs up after a chase by debt collectors. Invited in, Norma see’s Joe as her opportunity to come back to the Hollywood big time with her self-written script. Joe takes this opportunity and agrees to revise the script ready for submitting to the film company. This then starts the journey of love, jealousy, obsession and a need to break free.

Danny Mac previously of Hollyoaks and Strictly Come Dancing fame, played out the role of Joe Gillis the out of luck screenwriter beautifully. Desperate for work and taking the opportunity offered by Norma Desmond, he goes from seeking a quick opportunity for money, indulging himself in the lifestyle lavished on him by his employer turned lover to total frustration and imprisonment and the need for freedom. Danny Mac plays this role fantastically well, as well as being absolutely handsome, his previous stage experience and training ensure he is flawless. He made the role his own and came across suave, tormented and believable. His rendition of the title song also outstanding. Danny Mac shone from start to finish.

Norma Desmond the aged silent screen star was in turn played by Ria Jones. After seeing this performance it is hard to have imagined anyone else has played this role previously having had stars like Gloria Swanson in the 50’s movie and only recently Ria was understudy to Glen Close for this very role. Now getting her chance to be the leading lady on tour, seeing her portrayal of this ageing star, her self-belief, compulsion for her screenwriter Joe Gillis and later obsessive love drains away at his core. The gifts of which she encourages and lavishes on Joe equals the amount of guilt she makes him feel when he threatens to leave. Ria’s voice is breathtaking, powerful, like the Hollywood star she believes she is, she delivers these classic songs to effect and applause finally getting her moment at the end of the show ‘Lights, Camera, Action’  If Danny Mac shines in this production then Ria Jones Blazes.

A mention also to the butler and first husband Adam Pearce playing the character of Max Von Meyerling, whose support of Norma Desmond commendable. Leading her to believe she is still the bell of Hollywood he himself has his own standout moments with solo opportunities to display an amazing vocal range that goes deep.

This was production about Hollywood, and Hollywood is all about staging. I have to say this was the best range of staging I have seen in a production to date. Keeping to its core theme, it was rolled back to the same type of that used in the yesteryear. The opening act had a screen showing us a bond style intro at the start, curtains and projections used to amplify scenes or extend, or to give us a filming themed moment –  no better exemplified by the car chase early on. A grand staircase used to maximum effect in that its design and multiple uses extended its settings beyond that of just a staircase. The backdrop of Joe’s favourite diner turned bar was very retro and worked.

What more could I say about this show that myself or others have already? Well, it also has a live orchestra to accompany the wonderful staging and acting and what a job it does. Creating atmosphere throughout the orchestra gave this the Hollywood feel. Not something you normally see when you attend a show the live music feel is brilliant. Supervised and directed by Stephen Brooker and Tom Marshall respectively they deliver these David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber Orchestrations fantastically well.

A brilliant piece of casting in both Danny Mac and Ria Jones to lead this wonderful story of love, obsession and jealousy revolving around the hope for a Hollywood comeback as both as a writer and past performer.

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