New Ways to Dream: Meet Paul Tonden, Star of Reston Community Players’ ‘Sunset Boulevard’

Norma Desmond is waiting for her close-up in Reston Community Players’ sumptuous rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, opening this Friday, February 27, 2015.

Paul Tonden (Max).
Paul Tonden (Max).

Inspired by Billy Wilder’s iconic 1950 film, Webber’s musical version, featuring book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, focuses on the fading career of legendary silent film star Norma Desmond. With a career threatened by the advent of the “talkies” and a desperate fear of being discarded by Tinsel Town, Norma is convinced she can make a big Hollywood comeback. With the help of struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis, Norma starts on a quest to remind Hollywood and the world that she is still big – “it’s the pictures that got small.”

Max, Norma’s loyal butler and chauffeur, is played by Paul Tonden. Most recently, DC audiences have seen Paul perform as Professor Callahan in McLean Community Players’ Legally Blonde and as Javert in Kensington Arts Theatre’s Les Miserables.

Diane: What is the most challenging aspect of playing Max in Sunset Boulevard?

Paul: It’s challenging to be so stoic! Not being very expressive and having to pull back and choose when to emote is actually difficult. Also, settling on an accent that makes sense and sounds realistic and not cheesy or comedic has been challenging.

How do you connect most with Max?

He and I are both fiercely loyal people.

What is your favorite number that you do in Sunset Boulevard.

There is a reprise of the song “New Ways to Dream” in Act 2 that I love performing because I think it is a pivotal moment in the show that sets up the unraveling that is about to take place.

What number from Sunset Boulevard do you wish you were singing?

Paul: “As If We Never Said Goodbye.” I think it’s a great song and has so much depth, nuance, and insight into the character.

What do you hope audiences take away from this production?

More tickets for another performance because they loved it so much they’re gonna bring their friends and family!

What makes this production of Sunset Boulevard special or unique?

It is a really good transformation and representation of the classic film to a stage musical. If you have seen the movie it will be a thrill to see and hear it brought to life! If you haven’t seen the movie, well, you should – it’s brilliant, but you should come see and hear one of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s best works!

What are the enduring themes of Sunset Boulevard?

Celebrity entitlement, the hunger for fame and Hollywood narcissism is alive and well! It’s amazing how the themes of a period piece are still relevant in the present. These characters would have been a popular reality show!


Sunset Boulevard plays through March 21, 2015 at Reston Community Players performing at CenterStage at the Reston Community Center – 2310 Colts Neck Road, For tickets, call the box office at (703) 476-4500 x 3, or purchase them online


She’s Ready for Her Close-Up: Meet Katie McManus, Star of Reston Community Players’ ‘Sunset Boulevard.’

It’s The Pictures That Got Small: Meet Joshua Redford, Star of Reston Community Players’ ‘Sunset Boulevard.’


Winner of seven Tony Awards, Sunset Boulevard combines the classic movie feel with what TIME magazine calls “Lloyd Webber’s most artfully constructed score.” The hit musical has engulfed audiences around the world. Webber’s score includes such poignant, bittersweet romantic songs as “With One Look” and “As If We Never Said Goodbye.”

Mark Hidalgo, most recently seen in McLean Community Players’ La Cage aux Folles, RCP’s Legally Blonde, and Arlington Players’ 9 to 5, directs and choreographs. Elisa Rosman, who recently music directed NextStop’s critically acclaimed Into the Woods, is musical director for Sunset Boulevard. Jennifer Lambert is the producer.

The RCP Sunset Boulevard cast features Katie McManus (Norma Desmond); Joshua Redford (Joe Gillis); Paul Tonden (Max); Katie Depp (Betty); Richard Farella (Artie); Mike Bagwell (Cecil B. DeMille); and Quentin Sagers (Manfred). The Sunset Boulevard ensemble includes Dwayne (DJ) Harney, Danny McKay, Kieth Flores, Sean Cator, Anthony Khong, Jasmine Jones, Cara Giambrone, Blake Green, Sally Kiernan, Grace McCarthy, and Karen Kelleher.


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