Theatre review: Sunset Boulevard

Ria Jones as Norma Desmond (centre), Danny Mac as Joe Gillis and Adam Pearce as Max
Ria Jones as Norma Desmond (centre), Danny Mac as Joe Gillis and Adam Pearce as Max
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IT’S a pity, in a way, that this touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard is not officially part of Scotland’s current Luminate festival of creative ageing, because the mighty tale of fading Hollywood star Norma Desmond is a manual without parallel on how to grow old disgracefully. Vain, deluded, and madly in love with a man half her age, Norma is a figure so beloved by fans of the camp and the outrageous that she has been unable to do any wrong since Gloria Swanson first played her on screen in 1950; and some of her lines are so famous that the audience practically chant them in unison with the cast.

Playhouse, Edinburgh ***

So it’s hardly surprising that there’s a rapturous reception at the Playhouse for this fair-to-average production, originally from The Curve in Leicester. This time around, Norma is played with great panache but little subtlety by Ria Jones, and her young scriptwriter lover Joe by Strictly star Danny Mac, who sings and acts with impressive commitment and talent, particularly in the show’s powerful title song; there’s a lovely supporting performance from Molly Lynch as Joe’s young love Betty.

The sets are spectacular, the 15-piece band is terrific, the show’s big, over-inflated emotions come surging across the footlights on a tide of predictable chord-changes; and if having your feelings played upon in a pretty obvious way is the good night out you crave, then Sunset Boulevard is the show for you, and Miss Desmond the star who never gets small, no matter how often her story is retold.

JOYCE MCMILLAN

Final performances today; also at His Majesty’s, Aberdeen, 6-11 November.