Review Roundup: SUNSET BOULEVARD Starring Stephanie J. Block, Derek Klena, and Auli'i Cravalho Opens At The Kennedy Center

Based on Billy Wilder's Academy Award-winning film, Andrew Lloyd Webber's masterpiece, weaves a compelling tale of romance, obsession, and faded glory in 1950s Hollywood.

By: Feb. 03, 2023
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The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts presents the highly-anticipated Broadway Center Stage production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tony Award-winning Best Musical, Sunset Boulevard starring Tony Award- winner Stephanie J. Block. Read the reviews below!

Based on Billy Wilder's Academy Award-winning film, Andrew Lloyd Webber's masterpiece, with book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, weaves a compelling tale of romance, obsession, and faded glory in 1950s Hollywood.

Broadway powerhouse Stephanie J. Block (The Cher Show, Into the Woods) stars as former silent-screen goddess Norma Desmond. Tony Award® nominee Derek Klena (Jagged Little Pill, Moulin Rouge! The Musical) is Joe Gillis, Auli'i Cravalho (Moana, Rise, The Little Mermaid Live!) is Betty Schaefer, and internationally-renowned Grammy Award® winning baritone Nathan Gunn is Max von Mayerling.

They are joined by Michael Maliakel (Aladdin) as Artie Green, Kevin Pariseau (My Fair Lady, Ink) as Sheldrake, Tyley Ross (Finding Neverland, Miss Saigon) as Manfred, and Paul Schoeffler (Sunset Boulevard, Rock of Ages) as Cecil B. DeMille. The Ensemble includes David André, Lauren Blackman, Julio Catano-Yee, Colin Cunliffe, Haile Ferrier, Emily Harvey, Wonza Johnson, Aubrie Knapp, Ryland Marbutt, Lance Roberts, Maria Cristina Posada Slye, and Kristin Yancy.

This new production from the Kennedy Center's critically acclaimed Broadway Center Stage series is directed by Sammi Cannold (Evita at New York City Center, Ragtime on Ellis Island), with choreography by Emily Maltby (For You Paige: A TikTok Musical, Evita at New York City Center) and music direction by Ben Cohn (Dear Evan Hansen).

Sunset Boulevard features scenic and projection design by Paul Tate DePoo III (BCS: Guys and Dolls, The Music Man, Tommy, Footloose, and Next to Normal) costume design by Alejo Vietti (Beautiful, Allegiance), lighting design by Cory Pattak (BCS: Guys and Dolls, Next to Normal, Footloose, In the Heights, Little Shop of Horrors, The Music Man), sound design by Kai Harada and Haley Parcher (BCS: Guys and Dolls), and hair and wig design by Tom Watson (Wicked, Rock of Ages, The King and I).

Tyrone L. Robinson (the Kennedy Center's Show Way) is the Associate Director, Emily Stillings is the Associate Choreographer, and Garret Healey is the Associate Musical Director. The lush score is performed onstage by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. Casting is by JZ Casting. The Broadway Center Stage series is conceived by Artistic Director Jeffrey Finn, Kennedy Center Vice President and Executive Producer of Theater.

Peter Marks, The Washington Post: Block's performance culminates in those two meaty numbers that scale up the character's fatal flaw - her conviction that the image that exists in two celluloid dimensions can continue to thrive in three. The exhilaration that the actress engenders in captivating crescendos is a testament to the all-consuming power of self-deception.

Ken Kemp, Broadway World: While this production of Sunset Boulevard is a tight, well-rounded, and entertaining show, it is most definitely a star vehicle - and Block is more than up to the task. That said, with the pared-down approach of the Broadway Center Stage treatment, at times it feels a bit like a concert performance of the show - on multiple occasions, the audience stopped the show with prolonged, adoring ovations after Block knocked signature songs like With One Look, New Ways to Dream, and As If We Never Said Goodbye out of the park. Sunset Boulevard is a rare opportunity to see an exceptionally talented actor, in the prime of her career, in a role she was born to play, but it's a bit disjointed at times.