Loosely based on the life of pointillist Georges Seurat and inspired by his painting "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical has an official opening on June 1 and runs through June 28 at the Center's Eisenhower Theater. Raúl Esparza, who was most recently on Broadway as the Emcee in Kander and Ebb's Cabaret, portrays the French impressionist, and Melissa Errico, of My Fair Lady and High Society fame, plays his mistress Dot.
The remainder of the Sunday cast comprises Florence Lacey (Yvonne), Cris Groenendaal (Jules), Donna Migliaccio (Nurse and Mrs.), Jason Gilbert (Franz), Tracy Lynn Olivera (Celeste 1), Sherri Edelen (Celeste 2), Michael L. Forrest (Boatman), Bob McDonald (Louis), Amy McWilliams (Frieda), Matthew Shepard (Soldier), Daniel Felton (Horn Player), Mary Jayne Raleigh (Woman with baby carriage), Harry Winter (Mr.), Linda Stephens (Old Lady) and Annie Simon (a Boy bathing in the river and Jules and Yvonne's daughter).
The second act of the musical — set a century later than the first — features the same cast in these roles: Raúl Esparza (as George, an artist), Melissa Errico (as Marie, George's grandmother), Jason Gilbert (as Dennis, a technician), Cris Groenendaal (as Bob Greenberg, the museum director), Florence Lacey (as Naomi Eisen, a composer), Donna Migliaccio (as Harriet Pawling, a patron of the arts), Bob McDonald (as Billy Webster, Harriet's friend), Mary Jayne Raleigh (as a photographer), Daniel Felton (as a museum assistant), Michael L. Forrest (as Charles Redmond, a visiting curator), Matthew Shepard (as Alex, an artist), Amy McWilliams (as Betty, an artist), Harry A. Winter (as Lee Randolph, the museum's publicist), Linda Stephens (as Blair Daniels, an art critic), Tracy Lynn Olivera (as a waitress) and Sherri Edelen (as Elaine).
The Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine work originally opened at Broadway's Booth Theatre on May 2, 1984, where it ran for 540 performances. Starring Mandy Patinkin as George and Bernadette Peters as Dot, the premiere Broadway company also included Barbara Bryne as the Old Lady, Brent Spiner as Franz, Charles Kimbrough as Jules and Dana Ivey as Yvonne. Sondheim's score — which was nominated for a Tony Award — features such titles as "Finishing the Hat," "Putting It Together," "Children and Art," "Move On" and "Beautiful." Sunday in the Park received ten Tony Award nominations, winning two: Scenic Designer (Tony Straiges) and Lighting Designer (Richard Nelson). It was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize in Drama. In his original New York Times review, Frank Rich — an ardent supporter of the show — wrote, "Mr. Sondheim and Mr. Lapine have created an audacious, haunting, and, in its own intensely personal way, touching work. Even when it fails — as it does on occasion — Sunday in the Park is setting the stage for even more sustained theatrical innovations yet to come. . . . Both at the show's beginning and end, the hero is embracing not a woman, but the empty white canvas that he really loves — for its "many possibilities." Look closely at that canvas — or at Sunday in the Park itself—and you'll get lost in a sea of floating dots. Stand back and you'll see that this evening's two theater artists, Mr. Sondheim and Mr. Lapine, have woven all those imaginative possibilities into a finished picture with a startling new glow."
Eric Schaeffer — who will also helm the Kennedy Center Passion — directs Sunday in the Park with George, one of the six Sondheim musicals being offered this spring and summer. The other five titles: Company, Merrily We Roll Along, Sweeney Todd, Passion and A Little Night Music. Sweeney Todd and Company have already arrived; Merrily We Roll Along will begin previews in July.
Tickets for Sunday in the Park with George, which as of press time are still available, range from $29-$79 and can be purchased by calling (800) 444-1324. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is located in Washington, D.C., at 2700 F. Street. For more information, go to www.kennedy-center.org.
—By Andrew Gans