THE offer of playing Joe Gillis in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s award-winning musical Sunset Boulevard, which tours to Newcastle Theatre Royal this week, came at a strange time for Danny Mac.

The actor who claims that he preferred to be a runner-up in last year’s Strictly Come Dancing, says: “I’d just done a musical (On The Town in London’s Regent’s Park) and I wanted to keep as much variation in my career as possible. Then Sunset Boulevard came along and I really wanted to pull back from the idea, but the idea pursued me,” says Mac, who was born Danny Mac Greene.

In the end, Mac found himself listening to the soundtrack. “I knew this musical anyway because if you’re going to be a male performer of any kind then this part is up there with the best of them. I did know that and after listening to the soundtrack it got me and opened the floodgates to the production, the venues and the opportunity. I knew this wasn’t going to be a half-effort tour. The full she-bang was required from the talented team behind it,” says Mac.

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He signed up to join Ria Jones, who takes the central role of Norma Desmond in the Tony Award-winning (Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical) show. Based on Billy Wilder’s legendary film, with book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, the plot surrounds a faded, silent-screen goddess asking an impoverished screenwriter to work on a comeback film “masterpiece”.

Best-known for playing Mark “Dodger” Savage in C4 soap Hollyoaks, Mac made a big impact in the 14th series of Strictly, with partner Oti Mabuse, eventually reaching the final.

Mac agrees that once he started rehearsals as Joe Gillis he knew he had an opportunity that wasn’t to be missed. “I’m just so glad is hovered around long enough. It’s a sensational and fantastic piece. I think it’s arguably one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best works. It’s so cinematic and has a blockbuster-style score... I would pay to hear an orchestra play it. And we have one of the biggest orchestras going out that any show can have at the moment. There will be something like 16 or 17 players and it will sound even bigger with the Broadway level of programming.

“It’s not all that often you actually get to play characters that revolve within you own industry. That’s scary and a bit daunting to cross into those areas. It’s the life you live and it can be a bit close to the bone or too showy and false. Sometimes, it’s so real and so raw because we are playing people who could be us.

“But, these people are so flawed and it’s so whirlwind and rollercoaster, like the movie industry that it makes you question being an actor. Fame is so prominent and how long you can remain in the limelight and what happens afterwards. This is about someone addicted to the industry and the buzz that we all get. It felt great to explore that and the human condition within it.”

Mac somehow managed to fit in a marriage to Hollyoaks co-star Carley Stenson during preparing to tour. “It was always the plan, which was made long, long ago,” says the actor, who is adamant that it is possible to keep his working life and private life completely separate.

“I’ve been in a relationship for a long time and I’ve never felt under any pressure with being a leading man who is attracting attention. There is a love story within Sunset Boulevard, but it’s never about how it affects people within the industry. Most musicals are about relationships and this sees them develop between unique characters in very different ways. Both the show and the film are complex pieces which show the flaws in Hollywood that had nothing to do with the glamour and the glitz.”

Mac says that Sunset features how great and glorious silent stars were destroyed and “left on the wayside” by the arrival of the talkies. “The industry moved that quickly and it happens today when a new fad or piece of technology comes along. You generate a whole new category of stars and the rest are left behind,” he says.

In Mac’s case, he put a musical marker down early in his life by playing the young Gavroche in Les Miserables during its ten-week run in Southampton in 1998. “That was one of the biggest challenges of my life to work professionally as a child actor and experience what adult actors do. My parents were taking me to auditions and taking me to shows and, then, I was able to do that. My mum was a nurse and my dad sold fruit and veg and I saw how hard they worked. Then they supported me and I saw them when I was on stage having the time of my life. That’s where my drive came from and got me through my years at school and drama school. The longing for me was that there was more to be found out there and that’s why I love being an actor. There’s so much more to discover.

“In my private life I suppress certain emotions because I don’t want to be seen that way. When you’re an actor and have got a character to hide behind you can do anything and that’s what is so liberating. So I get the best of both worlds.”

  • Sunset Boulevard plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal until Saturday, October 14. Tickets are from £17.50. Box Office: theatreroyal.co.uk or 08448-112121 (calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge).