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Photos by Jeremy-Daniel

With 2023 still fresh on my mind, I cannot help but to realize that I am on an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical binge so far. My first theatre review of the year was “Cats” which I loved! For my sophomore effort, I get to take you back to Old Hollywood with a tale about an aging Hollywood actress who’s so delusional that she hopes for a comeback, and she pins all her hopes on a screenwriter that could take her beyond the dreams of Tinseltown from her home located at…. Sunset Boulevard!

Norma Desmond, the “It Girl” of the silent movie era, has become a memory of times gone by. She’s still holding on to the past as she is still Hollywood’s darling, living her decaying mansion on the famous street that shares the musical’s name. When a young but down on his luck screenwriter Joe Gillis wanders into Ms. Desmond’s life, Norma sees an opportunity to make her triumphant return to the movies. What follows is a world filled with romance, suspense, and tragedy.

“Sunset Boulevard” is a legendary musical that draws you in and never let’s go. My prior knowledge to the musical was seeing bits and pieces of 1950 film and the 90s cartoon “Tiny Toon Adventures” did a whole parody of musical for one episode. From the overture started to fill the room, you feel immediately transported to the Golden Age of Hollywood, where stars are discovered on the street or in a malt shop.

To fil in the role of Norma, you must have three things going for you – a powerful voice, admiring stage presence and the ability to change emotions at the drop of a hat and Tony winner Stephanie J. Block fulfilled all three and then some. Block digs deeps into Norma’s mental anguish and puts it on full display for the audience to see. Her starving, demented diva is a sensitive as she can be, and the part is ferociously well sung. To her pitching her long written script in “Salome” and bringing down the house with “As If We Never Said Goodbye”, Block plays a Norma that you cannot help but to feel sorry for. Block’s performance as Norma is one that you can’t afford to miss! It’s hard to believe that she will be back at the Kennedy Center in a few weeks for another musical, “Into the Woods”. Nonetheless, I cannot wait to hear that beautiful powerful voice grace the stage once more. 

Derek Klena


I was instantly hooked on the “Let’s Have Lunch” scene which showed some of the leads and the ensemble at their finest vocal ranges and sets us up for what brilliant musical performances are about to see. As an old Hollywood buff, it was great to see the hustle and bustle of the actors, writers, producers, and directors do what it takes to make a movie. Plus, this gives the audience the first chance to meet Joe Gillis played by the wickedly talented Derek Klena. Klena, who is hot off his run as Christian in “Moulin Rouge”, was perfect for the role. With such a range he must deliver throughout the night, he kept it cool, amusing and fun for every scene he was in. I was very impressed with the way he handled the title song since its one of the most difficult songs to sing in Broadway musicals and he nailed it!

Derek Klena and Auli’i Cravalho

For our big Disney fans out there, Auli’I Cravalho uses her awe-inspiring singing voice in the role of Betty Schaefer and churns out a dazzling performance. You can just close your eyes, just focus on her unique voice and feel this amazing woman shine through since her debut as the Disney princess Moana. Cravalho’s star is still rising, and I cannot wait to see what she will do next in your career. Nathan Gunn is also a highlight as Max, Ms. Desmond’s butler. When it comes to his rendition of “The Greatest Star of All” there’s not a dry eye in the house.

Ever since Kennedy Center created the Broadway Center Stage performances, we have been witnessing some top tier productions in every detail. I have to give kudos to scenic designer Paul Tate dePoo II for creating the world of Sunset that transformed the Eisenhower Theatre into old Hollywood. We see elevated classic staircases on each side of the set while a projection back wall fills the room with black and white images of Norma’s mansion to the soundstages at Paramount Pictures. To dress the amazing cast and capturing the late 30’s/early 40’s look, costume designer Alejo Vietti created the defining look for Norma that cover every emotion that Stephanie portrays in the musical, from the first time we meet Norma as a hermit in her mansion to the stunning star making her grand entrance on the Paramount lot. The costumes are so brilliant, they capture the era perfectly.  

The amazing score was brought to life by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra led by guest conductor Ben Cohn. It’s one of the few productions at the Kennedy Center where not only you get to hear the music but to see the orchestra on stage performing. It’s something about see an orchestra with the cast on stage that kicks up the production up a few notches. You must give the KCOHO some well-deserved bows for they help create this amazing world for the evening.

Stephanie J Block as Norma Desmond and Company

Sunset Boulevard is an emotional show, but one of the great musical productions to see. Now, we may see it performed time & time again, but when you have a cast as good as the one that I’ve seen, then you owe to yourself to give it a look. If you want some excitement from a powerful musical at the Kennedy Center, then head on over to 10086 Sunset Boulevard or you can just come down to the Eisenhower Theatre and tell them that Dean on the Scene sent you.


Sunset Boulevard is playing at the Eisenhower Theatre at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts now through February 8th. Runs for 2 hours and 10 Minutes with one 15-minute intermission. Recommended for ages 12 and up. Please be aware that this production uses smoke, haze, flashing lights, and gunshot sound effects.

Tickets are available through the Box Office or online at https://www.kennedy-center.org/

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