“Sunset Boulevard” is a well-known masterpiece of the theatre, winning seven Tony Awards in 1995, including Best Musical and Best Score for Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricists Christopher Hampton and Don Black.
In fact, when the musical bowed on Broadway in November 1994, it had the highest advance in Broadway history at the time.
Based on the classic Billy Wilder film, the story centers on silent-screen goddess Norma Desmond, who longs for a return to the big screen, having been cast about by Hollywood with the advent of “talkies.”
When struggling Hollywood screenwriter Joe Gillis has a chance encounter with Desmond, their subsequent passionate and volatile relationship leads to an unforeseen and tragic conclusion.
The Kennedy Center’s Broadway Center Stage series is bringing “Sunset Boulevard” to D.C., for 10 performances, from February 1 to February 8.
Directed by Sammi Cannold, a stellar cast is led by Tony Award winner Stephanie J Block as Norma Desmond; Tony Award nominee Derek Klena as Joe Gillis; Auli‘i Cravalho (best known as the voice of Moana) as Betty Schaefer; Grammy Award winner Nathan Gunn as Max von Mayerling; and Michael Maliakel, who currently stars as the title role of Aladdin on Broadway, in the role of Artie Green.
Maliakel, who studied theatre at Georgetown and also the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University, is thrilled to be coming to his “second home” to perform in such a magical production.
“I have never seen a production of the show, but it’s one of Andre Lloyd Webber’s iconic pieces, so all of us who make a living in this business have a lot of respect for his body of work and this show,” he says. “It has some really great, heavy-hitting songs that we’ve all come to love over the years. Once you hear these melodies, they really never leave your head.”
While in school, he performed at the Kennedy Center on the Millennium Stage, sang choral work with the National Symphony in the Concert Hall, and sang in the terrace theatre. But this is his first time on stage at the famed Eisenhower Theatre.
In the show, Maliakel’s character is the protagonist Joe Gillis’ best friend, living in the Golden Age of Hollywood.
“Artie is an up-and-coming director, and Joe is a writer, and Artie is recently engaged to Betty, also a writer,” Maliakel says. He adds a love triangle soon comes about.
The actor had to take a short hiatus from his nightly Broadway magic carpet ride, but he feels fortunate that the “Aladdin” team allowed him to take the time off.
“It’s sort of a nice little break from the heavy lifting I have to do at the New Amsterdam Theatre every night,” Maliakel says. “Derek is also in a show on Broadway, with ‘Moulin Rouge,’ so we’re lucky with some of these long-running shows. They have some flexibility to let us out here and there. It’s good for all of us to stretch our wings and learn new material. Then we come back to our regular gigs with fresh eyes.”
Although the entire production was put together in just 11 days, Maliakel shares that it’s still top-notch Broadway quality, and more than just a concert version that, many times, short runs like these normally are.
“The caliber of production — the costuming, the lighting, the set, the choreography — it feels very much like a Broadway show,” he says. “If anyone had any reservations about seeing this show in a concert setting, it is the complete opposite of that. It should be considered like going to a Broadway show here in D.C., which I think is pretty special.”
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit here.
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