AS part of its UK tour, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s dark operatic musical, Sunset Boulevard, stops in Bradford where Leo Owen caught the show

Based on Billy Wilder’s original 1950s film, Sunset Boulevard is the tragic story of delusional ex-silent movie star, Norma Desmond (Ria Jones). True to source material, the show begins with a homicide on "the Boulevard" and the deceased remembering six months earlier, recalling events leading up to his death.

Director Nikolai Foster uses mixed media to tell Norma’s demise, fittingly combining the old and the new. "A Paramount picture" is projected onto a black and white screen, morphing with blood dripping into water before Colin Richmond’s set slickly appears behind, revealing the studio gates. Here, our protagonist, Joe Gillis (Danny Mac), having lost favour with Fox, meets with Sheldrake, a Paramount producer he hopes to woo into giving him a much-needed writing gig.

Setting the scene, Don Black and Christopher Hampton’s song Let’s Have Lunch is performed in one extended, ambling but continuous sequence. It cleverly replicates the industry’s bustling self-obsessed lifestyle and somehow, despite its energy, possesses a dullness mirrored by its vapid schmoozers.

Colin Richmond’s set and costumes perfectly complement the clash between movie stars of a bygone era and those propelled into the limelight by the introduction of "talkies". Norma’s wardrobe smacks of the opulent 20s while other characters embrace more contemporary styles. The faded grandeur of her house is arguably Richmond’s greatest triumph, including the easy transformation of his showpiece staircase into abandoned movie sets. Richmond boasts impressive attention to detail with an animated street backdrop projected behind the cafe windows, an inventive car scene and oppressive wall of words.

As self-professed "living legend" Norma, Jones perfectly depicts the unravelling of a lonely recluse. Spurred on by a chance meeting with young writer, Joe, Norma plots her comeback by pitching the screenplay she has written. Ironically, her subject-matter of choice and lead role, focuses on the famous female seductress Salome, and needs heavily editing by Joe. Playing Joe, Danny Mac holds his own but lacks the character depth of Norma, a manipulative and possessive woman destroyed by her jealous fixation.

Skilled emotional blackmailer, Norma is spell-binding to watch, particularly in the second half when the pace picks up and she races towards impending doom. While there are very few stand-out songs (aside from The Perfect Year), it is full of hypnotic sweeping instrumentals and the show’s claustrophobic atmosphere rivals Hitchcock. A predictable love story with an unexpected twist, Sunset Boulevard titillates and captivates.

Sunset Boulevard Showed at the Alhambra February 5 to10 before continuing its UK tour: