Review: Sunset Boulevard – Audience are just mad about Ria

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Electrifying, the only word to describe the atmosphere as the cast of Sunset Boulevard took their bows at the end of a spectacular opening night at The Playhouse.

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The Playhouse

Ria Jones, the greatest Norma Desmond to grace the stage in generations, stepped forward to take the final bow... and was met with a spontaneous standing ovation, the audience, as one, erupting from their seats.

Sunset Boulevard:  Ria Jones as Norma Desmond, with Danny Mac as Joe Gillis and Adam Pearce as Max

Sunset Boulevard: Ria Jones as Norma Desmond, with Danny Mac as Joe Gillis and Adam Pearce as Max

Michael Harrison and David Ian’s magical new touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s tragic Hollywood love story is musical theatre gold.

Set in the early days of the talkies, with the ghosts of silent movie legends still lingering forlornly in the shadows, Norma Desmond is the star who ‘made Paramount Studios’ when just one look spoke louder than any number of words.

Now a lonely recluse, reliving past glories in her Sunset Boulevard mansion, a chance encounter with aspiring young script writer Joe Gillis sparks a dream of a return to the silver screen.

It’s also the start of a destructive relationship destined to fail...

In the role of Gillis, Danny Mac, barely off stage throughout, is a revelation. As the object of Norma’s affection, he boasts a natural story-telling flow to his vocals.

Charismatic and calculating, his is a complex portrayal that mines the darkness of his character beautifully.

It is, however, Ria Jones who mesmerises in her madness as Norma Desmond.

Jones’ sends tingles down the spine, capturing the delusion and desperation of the fading star who has just celluloid memories and her butler, Max, for company.

Robust yet painfully fragile, Jones’ Norma is a pitiful soul it is impossible not to love.

Both Jones and Mac share an easy chemistry with Adam Pearce as Max. A towering presence both physically and vocally, his rich, throaty basso profondo is as explosive as it is tender.

It is more than a match for Lloyd Webber’s thematic score - a triumphant, though at times bombastic, masterpiece, brought vigorously to life by Adrian Kirk and his 16-piece orchestra.

As the score roars to a blistering climax, however, all eyes are on Jones, whose career defining performance ensures her place as one of musical theatre’s greatest leading ladies.

Remember the address, 10086 Sunset Boulevard, go visit, Norma’s waiting.

Run ends Saturday 7 October