REVIEW: Sunset Boulevard at Birmingham Hippodrome

SUNSET BOULEVARD. Danny Mac 'Joe Gillis', Ria Jones 'Norma Desmond' and Adam Pearce 'Max Von Meyerling'. Photo Manuel Harlan
Manuel Harlan

Ria Jones and Danny Mac star in the touring production Andrew Lloyd Webber’s spectacular musical.

Welcome to the life of screenwriter Joe Gillis (Danny Mac), whose Hollywood dream isn’t going quite the way he planned. His script has just been turned down and he’s on the run from bailiffs who are tracking his every move in an attempt to tow away his car.

But when he stumbles across the home of the once great Norma Desmond (Ria Jones), his life is turned upside down as he becomes trapped after she convinces Gillis that he can help her create a script that will launch her back into the limelight, although she’s fairly positive that she still has adoring fans who are ready and waiting for her return.

It’s here that life for Gillis becomes that little more complicated; as Norma’s admiration for the young, attractive writer develops, Gillis becomes encased in her deluded, fantasy world and lavish lifestyle, and in return, his relationships outside Sunset Boulevard begin to suffer.

There are moments, rare and spectacular, where you become completely immersed in a show. Only a fool would step into an Andrew Lloyd Webber production and not expect to be swept away into a world of theatre like no other.

Webber is, after all, one of the greatest theatrical composers of all time; the man behind Phantom of the Opera, Evita and of course, Sunset Boulevard. Sunset is no ordinary, plane sailing production; everything is choreographed to sheer perfection, from the slick set changes to the cast gloriously gliding across the stage atop a lavish staircase. Pair this with impeccable actors and a 14 piece orchestra performing Webber and David Cullen’s score and you’re onto a winner.

Sunset has given former Hollyoaks star and Strictly Come Dancing 2016 finalist, Danny Mac a chance to show an audience that he’s more than just a pretty face in a soap series. He steps into, what is arguably quite an emotionally draining and challenging role with absolute ease.

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His seamless vocals rival that of any West End star, and not for a second did I, or the rest of the audience of that matter appear to doubt his abilities as an incredibly talented actor, who has a clear path ahead of him. So much so, that Mac is returning to the Hippodrome in a matter of weeks to perform in this year’s pantomime, Cinderella, before heading back on tour with Sunset in 2018.

Ria Jones as ‘Norma Desmond’. Credit: Manuel Harlan

Ria Jones’ performance as the iconic Norma Desmond is without a doubt one of the most astonishing I’ve seen on stage this year. Having stepped in after Glenn Close was forced to withdraw from the show due to illness, Jones’ has taken on the role that she was born to perform. Delivering faultless vocals and evoking such emotion from not only the cast but the audience as well, is a seriously impressive skill.

Portraying the role of a character who over the course of the show is gradually becoming unhinged with every step and song is no easy task, so it came as no surprise that Jones received a standing ovation and some of the biggest cheers of the evening for her outstanding performance that is sure to go down in history in Sunset’s UK tour.

Equally, the supporting cast adds more strength to what is already an unstoppable show. A star in her own right, Molly Lynch delivers a delightful performance as the adorable Betty Schaefer, while Adam Pearce proves himself to be a strong addition in his role as Max Von Meyerling, Desmond’s butler.

A sheer delight that will captivate your heart and soul from the moment the orchestra strikes its first note, Sunset Boulevard is a triumphant show that will leave you wanting more. Get ready to be swept into Hollywood, Norma Desmond is ready for her close up.

Sunset Boulevard runs at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday. Find out more here!