The new resident staging of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tony Award-winning showbiz musical noir (with book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, based on Billy Wilder's film) is performed in the Signature's 276-seat MAX Theatre. Artistic director Eric Schaeffer has "opened up" the space to create a movie-studio environment, a welcoming place for Norma, who famously sings "As If We Never Said Goodbye" when she makes her comeback (er — "return") to a movie lot.
Director Schaeffer (Million Dollar Quartet) told Playbill.com's Diva Talk column, "We've actually turned the whole theatre into the back lot of Paramount Studios, so you feel like you're sitting in the back lot and there's sandbags and catwalks overhead, and then that actually transforms into the mansion. We've done a lot of stuff that's different from the original with the usage of film….We have all these different film sequences — there's a whole film sequence that goes on during … the opening of Act Two. I just think the intimacy of the space, of seeing this huge musical being done so intimately [is another difference], and I think the music is so important. It's such a character of the show, and so that's why we're doing it with a 20-piece orchestra."
Opening night is Dec. 19. The run continues to Feb. 13, 2011.
The story of a hungry young screenwriter who hitches his wagon to a faded star features Lacey (Evita; Hello, Dolly!; The Grand Tour, Signature's Follies) as the tragic silent film star Norma Desmond; D.B. Bonds (The Phantom of the Opera; Les Misérables; Signature's The Visit) as scribe Joe; Susan Derry (Wonderful Town) as love interest and fellow screenwriter Betty; and Ed Dixon (Les Miz, The Iceman Cometh, The Three Musketeers) as Norma's mysterious major domo Max von Mayerling. Three-time Helen Hayes Award winner Fred Shiffman is Sheldrake, and Harry Winter is Cecil B. DeMille.
Music director and conductor Jon Kalbfleisch leads the orchestra. The creative team includes Karma Camp (choreography), Daniel Conway (sets), Howell Binkley (lights), Kathleen Geldard (costumes) and Matt Rowe (sound). The Sunset Boulevard ensemble features Sandy Bainum, Matt Conner, William Diggle, Rebecca Fale Ghiu, Gia Mora, Jake Odmark, Kirsten Riegler, Stephen Gregory Smith, Sean Thompson, Matthew Wojtal and Kara Tameika Watkins.
The musical won 1995 Tony Awards for Musical, Book, Score, Lighting, Scenic Design and Leading Actress (Glenn Close), Featured Actor (George Hearn). Patti LuPone originated the role in London, where it played its world premiere.
Tickets range in price from $59-$85 and are available by calling Ticketmaster at (703) 573-SEAT (7328) or visiting www.signature-theatre.org.