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EDISON, NJ—For decades, theater goers have waited for the return of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s pop operetta redo of Billy Wilder’s classic drama of Hollywood’s underbelly.
Wrangled in legal ownership issues, cost overruns, a fired Patti LuPone, feuds, and being labeled one of Broadway’s flop hits, Sunset Boulevard’s non-equity rights were not available until recently.
Producer/Director Gary P. Cohen took full advantage of these rights and provided the New Jersey premier of this eerie yet compelling musical about a forgotten silent screen icon and the young down at heel writer whose paths cross in that spooky and decaying mansion located 100086 Sunset Boulevard.
One of the advantages a non-equity theater can be that return on investment isn’t always the primary motivation for a production.
Cohen, his cast and crew obviously unencumbered with the baggage that plagued the equity production across the river, delivered a powerful and dark musical drama filled with pathos and tenderness that compelled all to remain seated till its fruition.
Though a work of fiction, Sunset Boulevard brings to mind several popular cases that exposed skeletons in Hollywood’s closet.
In this story, a struggling wannabe screenwriter is found dead in the Hollywood mansion of a reclusive icon… life imitating art, or perhaps the other way around.
Leading the cast as the conflicted Joe Gillis is Billy Piscopo, who seemed to be right out of central casting, giving a great performance.
His equal was the talented Julie Waldman Stiel, who didn’t play Gloria Swanson, she played Norma Desmond. Bravo to you Ms. Stiel for not taking the easy path and taking ownership of the part.
Scott Daniels was on his game as the enabling and obsessed Max von Maryling. Emma McGahan was both charming and pitiful as Betty Schaefer Joe’s moral compass who realizes she can’t redeem him.
Abe Vorensky as Sheldrake, Kirk Geritano as Artie, Jeffrey O’Neill as Manfred and Bob Nutter as CB DeMille all delivered outstanding peformances and all involved in this production made this an absorbing night of musical drama.
On a practical note, the seats are only seven dollars. That’s less than a movie.
Up next in Roosevelt Park will be performances of Shrek and that’s followed by Bye Bye Birdie.