Kennedy Center may be attracting a lot of press with its six-musical Sondheim celebration this summer. But D.C. can only look forward to one production of Sunday in the Park with George, while Chicago is offering Windy City theatregoers two looks at Sondheim's Pulitzer Prize-winner.
Pegasus Players Theatre will stage the work first, beginning May 22. The fall will then bring Chicago Shakespeare Theatre's production, starting Oct. 4.
Both houses have had luck with the composer. Pegasus made headlines when it staged the U.S. premiere of Sondheim's early work Saturday Night in 1999—a production which inspired the subsequent Off Broadway mounting at Second Stage. Chicago Shakes, meanwhile, had an unexpected hit last fall with the seldom-seen Pacific Overtures.
Gary Griffin, Chicago's resident musical theatre genius, piloted the latter, and will return to Chicago Shakes to direct Sunday. No casting has been announced.
The musical will be presented in the theatre's upstairs space. Asked if the success of Pacific Overtures had anything to do with the selection of the 2002-03 season opener, a theatre spokesman said, "That certainly is why we're revisiting a second Sondheim piece." Gareth Hendee will director Seurat and company at Pegasus. Hendee has a special connection to the show's other author, librettist James Lapine. He has acted as Lapine's assistant for some years, and directed Lapine and William Finn's Muscle at Pegasus in 2001.
The time-tripping Sunday in the Park with George takes an imaginative look at the creation of art—specifically, the origins of post Impressionist master George Seurat's masterpiece "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte." Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters starred in the original Broadway production.
The Kennedy Center effort will be helmed by Eric Schaeffer, with Raul Esparza in the lead.
—By Robert Simonson