SUNSET BOULEVARD | London, New Wimbledon Theatre

The screaming ovation for Ria Jones, as mad, has-been silent movie actress Norma Desmond, started in the middle of Act 1, with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sweeping orchestral hit “With One Look”. The award-winning musical’s knockout number in Act 2, “As If We Never Said Goodbye” got a similar reaction, with an immediate standing ovation at the finale.

Danny Mac is equally excellent as frustrated Hollywood writer Joe Gillis, lured into working for Norma Desmond on Sunset Boulevard, editing her doomed project Salome. Mac is known for being a favourite on Strictly Come Dancing, but he is an experienced West End star in his own right, and nails the complex, provocative role. His opening Act 2 song, “Sunset Boulevard”, is a showstopper.

Ria Jones was standby for Glenn Close at the recent concert production at the London Coliseum, and it’s impossible not to compare these two productions. Where this touring production offers lavish set and video design (Colin Richmond; Douglas O’Connell), a 16-piece orchestra (including 3 keyboards) sounds too thin and synthy by comparison to do justice to Lloyd-Webber’s lush, romantic score.

Set in 1950, the musical is an adaptation of the original 1950 black-and-white film starring Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, a former silent movie star herself. Film and film stars are probably a better fit for a story about film, rather than theatre and singers. However, the original West End production ran for over 1,500 performances, and more than twenty years on, this dark melodrama still has us screaming for more: it’s as if we never said goodbye.

Sunset Boulevard is touring across the U.K.

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