REVIEW: Sunset Boulevard, Palace Theatre, Manchester

Danny Mac, Ria Jones and Adam Pearce in Sunset Boulevard
Danny Mac, Ria Jones and Adam Pearce in Sunset Boulevard

In 1940s Hollywood, Joe Gillis is a struggling screenwriter and Norma Desmond is a faded star of the silent movies.

A chance turn while being chased by debt collectors brings broke Joe to Norma’s Sunset Boulevard mansion, and she hires him to help stage her comeback, while he reaps the benefits of her wealth.

As Joe, Strictly Come Dancing and Hollyoaks star Danny Mac narrates his tale in a surprisingly strong performance. Seldom off stage and driving the story forwards, in turn charming then despicable and more than holding his own against Ria Jones’ dazzling portrayal of Desmond.

At a time when standing ovations for musicals come all too easy thanks to megamix finales, the ovation for Ria as Norma is natural and deserved like no other I’ve seen. She gives a true tour de force performance as the downward spiraling actress falling for her handsome writer-turned-lover.

Ultimately a tortured soul, Max Von Meyerling is Norma’s protector, and Adam Pearce’s voice and brooding presence brings chills throughout, in contrast to Molly Lynch's sunny tones as the innocent writer Betty Schaefer who gets drawn into Joe's increasingly chaotic existence controlled by Desmond.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s lush score brings to life the tale based on the 1950 film of the same name - the rich and rounded orchestra at Manchester’s Palace Theatre taking almost as much applause as those on stage.

And stunning set and lighting design gives an epic cinematic feel from the glory days of Hollywood to the whole production.

Until Saturday.