We missed this production of “Sunday in the Park with George” at City Center’s Encores! series and, since it has been a family favorite, we got tickets for its limited run on Broadway. This iconic Sondheim musical dates from 1983 and is fundamentally about the creative process. This musical tells its story through Georges Seurat’s “Sunday on the Island of the Grand Jatte” — now in the Chicago Art Institute. Seurat and his model/mistress, Dot, plus a cast of characters who come from the finished work talk and sing about life, but really about how you create a work of art — how is art created — one of its famous lines is “A blank canvas, his favorite subject.” The first act is about the creation of the painting and the second act, set in 1983, revolves around another George who is Seurat’s descendent and also an artist. Without giving the ending away it centers on the effect of art after its creation.
The original starred Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters in the roles now played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaliegh Ashford. Gyllenhaal is good but no Patinkin (and much better in 2015s “Constellations”) and Ashford cannot hold a candle to Peters. In all candor this spare production, that has received rave reviews, disappointed us, it just does not stand up to the original and Ashford was a real disappointment. It was enjoyable, in part because it is a great musical, but it was not great. The only upgrade from the original is the second act light show (the new George’s art), and a certain clarity to the second act that was missing in the original.
If you like Sondheim or remember the original “Sunday in the Park” you might go; if not, we would not rush.
I’d add that the audiences at Broadway shows that feature “stars” like Gyllenhaal and Ashford drive me nuts. They jump to their feet and burst into applause as soon as the “stars” enter, they applaud every song, and sometime even every movement. At the final curtain, they leap to their feet hooting and cheering, we think it is for the “star” not the performance or the play.
Posted: 02/24/17 by Doug Anderson
Julia Benedict’s review of the New York City Center performance of “Sunday in the Park with George” made me look to see if it would be moved to Broadway — thank you Julia. We saw it last night at the Hudson Theater and were transfixed for two and a half hours as Jake Gyllenhaal, Annaleigh Ashford and a superb cast mesmerized us.
What a night!!!
OK, so I’m a Sondheim junkie. OK, so “Sunday” is probably my favorite of his shows. That said, we had no idea how spectacular this performance would be.
Dale gets her best read on a play in the Ladies Room at halftime where the word was surprise that Jake Gyllenhaal could sing and that a star was born. He and Annaleigh Ashford are perfectly matched — you can see the sheer joy on their faces as the night wears on.
Congratulations to Sarna Lapine for figuring out how to handle the Chromolume and for focusing the second act so the audience could concentrate on Sondheim’s words about children and parents. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
This is a limited engagement that ends April 23rd. We’ll be back in New York the first week in April and might see this again.