Theater Info for Maryland

Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre Sunset Boulevard

By • Jul 25th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Sunset Boulevard
Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre
CCBC Main Stage, Baltimore, MD
Through August 5th
2:10 with intermission
$20/$18 Senior and Alumni
Reviewed July 21st, 2012

An old, Hollywood camera stands alone on stage, under a majestic and ghostly spotlight. The lights fade, a warm but disturbing fade of lights appear upstage and reveals a corpse on a gurney wheeled off, spotlight hits, and we meet Joe Gillis (Tom Burns), a down-on-his-luck screen writer who takes us six months back into the past, and proceeds to tell us the story of the tragic 1995 Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Tony Award Winning Musical, Sunset Boulevard. As we’re transported back in time, we find Joe on the back lot of Paramount studios, desperately looking for work, evading two determined car-repo men, borrowing money from his best friend, Artie (Darren McDonnell), and bumping in and being rescued by Artie’s fiancĂ© and an aspiring screen writer, Betty Schaefer (Kelsey Lake). As Joe gets away, his car breaks down by an old faded, mysterious, Hollywood mansion. As Joe enters this daunting den, he encounters Norma Desmond “Greatest Star of All” (Nadine Haas Wellington) from the silent film era who never made a transition to sound movies. Norma has been reclusively hibernating in her mansion for 20 years, only to be accompanied by her faithful, loving butler, a one-time prominent movie director, as well as her ex-husband, Max (John Amato). Norma proceeds to transport Joe into her world by having her assist and rewrite her big comeback script of Selome. Joe reluctantly agrees, and as time goes by he is fully and helplessly submerged into Norma’s world, dominated by her passion, expensive gifts, eccentricity, and a need for love and attention. At the same time Joe’s and Betty’s relationship grows from screen writing partners, and develops into a blossoming romance which is quickly shattered and destroyed by Norma’s jealousy and rage. As the final moments of the last half a year come to an end, Joe tells Norma that he is leaving her and that Paramount has no intentions of making her film, nor do they have any interest in her. A distraught Norma reaches for a pistol and shoots Joe. As the press and the police arrive, completely fallen into insanity, Norma mistakes them for studio personnel and her beloved fans, she descends down the staircase, and utters the iconic phrase “Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

Cockpit in Court’s production under the masterful helm of Director Eric J. Potter is mind-blowing. The brilliant, grandiose, and breath-taking set by G. Maurice “Moe” Conn is not only worth the price of admission alone, but is one of the greatest sets a community theatre has ever produced. The nostalgic, elegant, cornucopia of costumes is brilliantly designed by Wil E. Crowther, and the Broadway quality, haunting lighting, is the imaginative result of lighting designer Ed Lake.

Burn delivers a stellar performance, never missing a beat or a note, making the audience hang on his every word. With a beautiful tenor voice, Burn paints a passionate yet painful portrayal of a man torn. Skillfully, Amato quietly yet impressively gives a performance of the heart torn, yet irreplaceable support to Norma’s demise. Watching Amato plainly breaks your heart. His most effectively touching scenes are the moments of silence and observation. Lake is perfectly cast as Betty, providing the positive side of the story with hope and love and the lighter moments of the show, with a stunning performance and flawless vocals, Lake makes a firm mark on this elegant production.

A string of legendary granddames have portrayed the role of Norma from West End to Broadway. Wellington makes it her absolute own, tackling one the most difficult roles in musical theatre with passion, determination, and care, with full and unbreakable understanding of this fragile figure. Tackling the demanding vocals head on, and full force, her rendition of “As if We Never said Goodbye,” is a display of talent, professionalism, maturity, and heart.

As Cockpit in Court’s 40th season comes to an end this weekend, their production of Sunset Boulevard goes down in history as one of their best, makes us look forward to what’s coming in the future and teaches us that there is always “New Ways to Dream.”

The Cast

  • Norma Desmond: Nadine Haas Wellington
  • Joe Gillis: Tom Burns
  • Max Von Mayerling: John Amato
  • Betty Schaefer: Kelsey Lake
  • Cecil B. DeMille: Jerry Geitka
  • Artie Green: Darren McDonnell
  • Sheldrake: Albert J. Boeren
  • Manfred: Thomas P. Gardner


  • Albert J. Boeren
  • Neena Boyle
  • Thomas P. Gardner
  • Amy Greco
  • Dave Guy
  • Emily Morgan
  • Bill Pheil
  • Sara Ritmiller
  • Shawn Rockel
  • Dana Romeo
  • Abbey Sierakowski
  • Courtney Yates
  • Jaimie Yates
  • Ralph Walsh


  • Conductor: Terri Mathews
  • Keyboards: Jeffrey Winfield, Julie Parrish
  • R. Christopher Rose
  • Bass: E.J. Riley
  • Percussion: Mark Leppo
  • Reeds: Rick Hauf, Richard Spittel
  • John Wojciechowski
  • French Horns: Dawn Zipay
  • Trumpet: Karl Tracy
  • Trombone: Lewis Blandon

Production Team

  • Director: Eric J. Potter
  • Musical Director: Terri Mathews
  • Rehearsal Pianist: R. Christopher Rose
  • Stage Manager: Margie Lake
  • Technical Director: G. Maurice “Moe” Conn
  • Choreographer: Julie Foley
  • Sound Designer/Operator: Julie Foley
  • Costume Designer: Wil E. Crowther
  • Wardrobe Assistant: Brian Kane
  • Lighting Designer/Operator: Ed Lake
  • Spotlight Operators: Tony Steiner, Calvin Grove
  • Set Designer: G. Maurice “Moe” Conn
  • Construction Crew: Joe Sigai, Matt Norton, Sarah Senior
  • Deanna Gilmore, Zack Lukowski, Marc Smith,
  • Nathan Davis, Andrew Wilkin, Nichole Chaney,
  • Tony Steiner, Calvin Grove
  • Deck Chief: Nicolle Walker
  • Lead Flyman: Nathan Davis
  • Running Crew: Jeremy Griffith, Zach Lukowski, Carol Braly
  • Properties Manager: Deborah Jennys

Disclaimer: Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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worked for twenty years as a professional actor and director, as well as worked a myriad of other theatrical production roles at various levels. In recent years, he served as Artistic Director/President of STROyKA Theatre in Washington, DC. Roman privately teaches acting, voice, and piano and serves as a consultant to various groups and schools. His primary role is stay-at-home dad and full-time college student. He also directs the Voices Unlimited Youth Choir at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Bel Air, MD.

One Response »

  1. I am actually the sound designer/operator. It has been a pleasure to work with such a talented crew, actor’s/actress’s, and Orchestra!!!