Danny Mac had no intention of signing up for another musical after spending last summer having a riot On The Town in London.
And he admits he almost didn’t give Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s Sunset Boulevard “the time of day” when the idea of him playing Joe Gillis was first mooted.
But here he is, about to make his Liverpool Empire debut in the sumptuously-staged musical, having not only changed his mind about the show but also extended his run in it to the end of the tour.
“There was something, some inkling in the back of my head,” reveals the former Hollyoaker of his change of heart. “I think a part of it was me just remembering the eight-year-old boy I was, and actually being asked to play a lead role in an Andrew Lloyd Webber production – I thought, at what point did I become the person who says no to even considering this?
“I thought, this is silly. So I picked up the script and put on the soundtrack. And within two or three minutes I thought, I HAVE to do this. To the point I started getting that fear it was going to get taken away.
“And I was like, OK, can you make this happen now? Because this is really special.”
Joe Gillis is the young Hollywood scriptwriter on his uppers who gets taken in to the home of reclusive former silent movie star Norma Desmond, where he becomes party to her deluded attempt to return to the spotlight. And the object of her affection along the way.
Ria Jones reprises the role of Desmond that she performed at the London Coliseum (opposite Liverpool-born musicals veteran Michael Xavier) in an understudy-to-star story worthy of its own play.
Glenn Close was playing the leading role but fell ill, leaving her understudy Jones to go on – initially to the audience’s dismay. But her performance not only won over the auditorium but led to a standing ovation.
“It’s incredibly poetic for her to be playing this role,” says Danny. “She sat there next to Andrew Lloyd Webber at a piano all those years ago when he was first conceiving the songs, and she was a big part of that.
“So to come full circle now. Because we know it’s not just a matter about being good or being the best, you have to have other things, and it takes a moment like stepping in to Glenn Close’s shoes and then really going out there and smashing it, it takes that on top of all the talent she has, all of the career experience she has.
“But now she can proudly go and own the role and my God, does she? She’s incredible.”
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Danny himself got to play the lead role, Thompson from accounts, in early workshops for the Liverpool musical Once Upon a Time at the Adelphi, which was premiered in Capital of Culture year.
He was in his second year at London’s Arts Educational Schools at the time, and one of his tutors was the musical’s playwright and director Phil Willmott.
“Most of the people doing this workshop were third years, and he pulled me in to play the lead role,” he recalls.
Danny Mac and Ria Jones in Sunset Boulevard. Photos above by Manuel Harlan
“I was kind of gobsmacked, and a bit out of my depth, because I’d only been training for a year. But it was a really great experience. And it was nice to get the ball rolling so early.”
Danny’s first job after graduating was understudying the role of Boq in Wicked. But of course he remains best known for his four years as cocky Mark ‘Dodger’ Savage in Hollyoaks, and for almost winning Strictly Come Dancing in 2016 with his partner Oti Mabuse – the pair creating some stunning routines including a Samba that won them a perfect 40.
Now he can add an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical to his CV, and he’s full of praise for the production which boasts a full orchestra, a grand mansion, and not one but two car chases, which should work well on the Empire’s massive stage.
After four years filming Hollyoaks in Liverpool, the actor – who married his former co-star and long-term girlfriend Carley Stenson last year - still looks on the city as a “second home”.
And despite having to look after himself to tackle the demanding role on stage every night, he says he’s definitely going to get out and about while he’s here.
Then there’s the little matter of a big birthday too.
“It’s my 30th on Monday February 26,” he explains. “But we’re going to be celebrating in Liverpool on the 24th.”
Sunset Boulevard is at the Liverpool Empire from February 19-24. Tickets from the website HERE