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BWW Interview: Danny Mac Talks SUNSET BOULEVARD IN CONCERT at Curve Theatre Online

Danny Mac chats about returning to Sunset Boulevard at the Curve Theatre, why it's so relevant right now and why he adored dancing with Oti Mabuse.

BWW Interview: Danny Mac Talks SUNSET BOULEVARD IN CONCERT at Curve Theatre Online

Over the Christmas period, Danny Mac was due to perform in Sunset Boulevard at the Curve Theatre in front of a socially distanced audience. But due to the recent tier changes, the show has now been recorded in HD for audiences to stream at home instead.

The first production to use the Curve's newly configured auditorium and accompanied by a 16-piece orchestra, Sunset Boulevard in Concert will reunite former members of the company who performed in the show in Leicester and on tour in 2017/18, including Mac.

He chats to us about why Sunset Boulevard is so relevant right now, the cinematic elements that audiences can expect from the production, and why he adores his former Strictly Come Dancing partner, Oti Mabuse.

For those who are unfamiliar with the show, can you just tell us a bit about Sunset Boulevard in Concert and the role of Joe, who you're playing?

Sunset Boulevard is based around Norma, a fading movie star in the 1950s. It tells the story of this young writer, Joe, who lands on her driveway after escaping from debt collectors. He finds this faded movie star who's living with just her butler, Max, in this big old mansion.

She's looking to make her return to the movie industry, while Joe is trying to make any money he can and become a working writer. They both enter this relationship to exploit each other to their own gains, but during that, Norma falls in love with Joe and so things get messy.

BWW Interview: Danny Mac Talks SUNSET BOULEVARD IN CONCERT at Curve Theatre Online
Ria Jones and Danny Mac
in Sunset Boulevard in Concert

The show was meant to be in front of a live audience, but due to tier restrictions, will now be livestreamed. How did that change feel?

Initially, the Curve Theatre - who've got an incredible architectural design in their theatre - were going to lift a wall that separates their two theatres and allow the action to take place in the middle of both stages, use both auditoriums and play the whole thing in the round.

It was going to be sensational because I don't think they've ever done it for a production before. Although the building was always designed to have that capability, they've never had the time or chance to do it.

So, it was going to be a really incredible opportunity for all of us and for the theatre itself, plus it would have enabled us to socially distance quite a few audience members. We could have had a good 500-600 people in there, which would have been phenomenal.

Once we got put into tier three, we thought that was it, to be honest, and we'd have to shut down. But thank goodness for Nikolai Foster [Artistic Director], Chris Stafford [Chief Executive] and the vision of everyone on the production who decided to bring in some cameras and make sure we filmed the whole thing.

It must be quite strange to go from being in a production for a live audience, to recording in an empty auditorium.

Yeah, but I think we just so lucky with this incredible story. It's a story that takes place behind the camera, and about what happens after films are made, and what happens to these celebrities when they are forgotten.

We can not only go behind the camera, but also behind the stage, literally, so we're going behind the curtain and the camera all in one go. Nikolai decided that we weren't going to hide away from any cameras, lights or crew; we're going to use them because this is set in a film studio.

BWW Interview: Danny Mac Talks SUNSET BOULEVARD IN CONCERT at Curve Theatre Online
Molly Lynch and Danny Mac
in Sunset Boulevard in Concert

It's a show built in a pandemic so we're going to embrace the truth of everything, and it's an ugly truth; we can't have an audience and we've all been out of work. These are forgotten artists making a show about a forgotten artist, and it's come full circle.

This isn't anyone wallowing, as everyone's had a really tough year, this is a celebration about what our industry can still produce and what we can bounce back from. It's how we work because that's what we do; we tell stories.

It also left those key moments empty. So, when Norma is having her emotional moment at the end, she's doing it to nobody and so it really resonates. There are just empty seats around us all of the time, and I think that's so poetic; to see those empty seats and actors becoming these people for nobody, just for the camera.

When Norma mentions all those people out there in the dark, that's what they are. Are they there? Are they going to watch? We don't know, we just came together and made this.

It's heartbreaking that this is only a limited run and it won't be around forever. I hope something or someone down the line allows it to be seen in 20 or 50 years, because hopefully things will never have to be made for this reason again.

It's very relevant for modern times isn't it? Did that help you explore and relate to the character of Joe?

I just use all my bitterness to play Joe. I love the industry and being an actor, it's the best thing in the world, but what we all do as artists - as I'm sure anyone does in any industry - you always have to overcome those things that are getting you down to do your job and go into it happy when you finally get one.

There are so many twists and turns in this game. What was great about stepping into Joe's shoes, is that he's not hiding it; he's at the end of his tether and he's ready to give it all up because it's hitting him so hard and he's not good at just shutting it down.

I like to think I'm much better at that, so when I get angry or frustrated, I can see the positives whereas I don't think Joe does that very well. So it's really nice to go that far the other way with an industry that you know so well.

Has that resonance changed since you first performed it in 2017?

BWW Interview: Danny Mac Talks SUNSET BOULEVARD IN CONCERT at Curve Theatre Online
The cast of Sunset Boulevard in Concert

When we first did this show a few years ago, I used to relate it to the industry being all about celebrity. We were just making celebrities for them to be celebrities, and it wasn't even helping those people. The people that were just becoming famous by being celebrities had no longevity, and we were actually breaking them, and in some cases, we were killing them. That's the actual truth of what we were doing as a society to our celebrity culture.

It's very easy to pull on that now and relate it to all those things that still exist, but then bringing it into a world where we've got this pandemic and things have been shut down and artists have been cast aside.

I'm not just talking about actors either, I mean anyone who works in theatre; front of house, people who design the shows, the costume makers, the lighting teams, everyone. Hundreds of thousands of people whose industry has just stopped, and it hasn't even been given a shining light.

This is what this show was: it's been a shining light for all of us, because for ten days we all went back to work, and everyone dropped whatever they've been doing to make money. They stopped what they were doing, put it aside, they took holidays from their work to come in and do it, and we made this beautiful, incredible piece of cinematic theatre.

The show clearly means a great deal to the cast then?

There were people in the cast that I fought with to get them back in this show. I wanted everyone that could do it, to come back and do it again.

I had friends who didn't know if they could do it, because when it was a full run with an audience, they were going to have to take six weeks off from a job, which they couldn't do. So they were going to have to leave their job, not knowing if they'd have another job on the other side of it, knowing full well the industry wouldn't exist still in January.

It's not about the money you're getting paid to do it, it's about the money you're going to lose afterwards. That's a real fear at the best of times for actors and for anyone in theatre, but in this particular climate it was hard.

People moved mountains to make this thing. People were losing terrible amounts of money to even put it on, but it's about showing the commitment, the willing and shining that light to show we can do it.

When we were in that building - and it was being lit incredibly by Ben Cracknell and his team, and hearing the sound of that 16-piece orchestra in the same room as us for the first time ever - sitting in the auditorium, we felt like we were making something really, truly special. .

The Curve Theatre is such a stunning venue too. It must have been amazing to return and perform there.

It's amazing, and to be able to get the use out of a theatre that's never been able to use its full potential before because they've always played shows back-to-back in each theatre is fantastic.

To lift that wall and have the spaces come together, the auditorium has been used in its entirety. It's a magnificent space, and we were filming underneath the seating, up in the lighting rigs, in the seats, as well as on and around the edge of the stage.

What was great, is that I was able to look into camera and narrate, rather than into the audience. Playing Joe in a theatre was 90% there, but doing it to camera is 100% Joe, and that was incredible.

I can't believe they've not made this as a movie yet. I know it's been in the pipeline for years, and I'm hoping this helps kick it up the backside to get it made, because it's a really important story.

BWW Interview: Danny Mac Talks SUNSET BOULEVARD IN CONCERT at Curve Theatre Online
Adam Pearce and Danny Mac
in Sunset Boulevard in Concert

You clearly enjoy being in this show. What do you love about it?

I think it's an incredible story and show, and I think it's Andrew Lloyd Webber's best score. It could just be played as a score to a movie, without the words, it is so cinematic. It sounds like an underscore for an epic film, and it just works.

What's your favourite song or moment in the show?

"New Ways to Dream" is a brilliant song for theatre and it's got so many layers of context. It's sung incredibly by Ria Jones and it's a real standout moment in the show.

It's funny because it's not even the biggest thing in the show, but there's something about how that song is made, it just works. It's magical at the beginning, and then at the end of it you're just in awe of so many things - in awe of the number, of Ria, of the industry, of the people - it really sings to everyone.

Your former Strictly Come Dancing partner, Oti Mabuse, recently lifted the Glitterball trophy for the second year in a row. You must be incredibly proud of her.

Oh my God, I just adore that woman so much.

I love all them all, all those dancers that I had the pleasure of being around. They're all such incredible human beings and lovely people who are so supportive to each other, so I was supporting all of them. I thought it was an incredible final, and they all deserved to win.

My bias is obviously with Oti though, and I was buzzing when she won. I thought they had a good shot, but when they called out their name, I just screamed. Oti and Bill Bailey were such a good team, and it was great to see them both win.

Have you got any favourite memories from your time on Strictly Come Dancing?

Every moment of it.

Oti is like fire, and I am as well, so we were such good mates; we would openly argue with each other about stuff.

Because I'm so creative, I needed a narrative to every dance - I couldn't bear dancing for no reason, I just didn't understand it - so we always created stories. I think that's how we came up with so many dramatic dances that people seemed to remember, because they told a story as well. That was our jobs colliding; I was telling my story, she was doing the execution, and together we were just fire.

I loved all of our dances. Obviously, I'll never forget the night we did the samba, the fun we had and the reactions of the audience. I never knew until that moment, until that final beat of the song, what dance can really be. I knew at that very moment that something special had just happened, and I didn't know that in training or in rehearsals, but there was something just magic.

Oti as a person, she's just superb. You know what I can't wait to see? I want to see her dance and dance as much as I can, but I can't wait to see what she does theatrically - on film or on stage as a choreographer - because I've never known anyone to live and work so hard, and she does it all with a smile.

The best thing about her is she will never knock anyone else down to succeed or win. There's no achievement in that for her, she wants to be the best because she's the best; she wants to win because she won, she doesn't want someone else to fail. That's what's great about her, and that's something I will always want to live by because it resonated with me so much.

Why should people book tickets to Sunset Boulevard in Concert?

Not only will you get a genuinely, entirely unique piece of theatre that will never be made like this before, and hopefully will never have to be made like this again, but also, you'll be supporting an industry which has been cast aside for far too long.

You're going to support theatre getting back on its feet and have the best viewing experience you can get at home. This isn't a theatre show that should have been put to an audience and been filmed, this is a theatre show that has been made as a film, for camera. It would be silly to miss it.

Sunset Boulevard in Concert is streaming online now until 9 Jan 2021

Photo credit: Marc Brenner

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