McDonald-LuPone-Cerveris Sunday in the Park with George Begins Sept. 3

By Andrew Gans
03 Sep 2004

The Ravinia Festival's Sondheim 75 series continues Sept. 3-5 with a semi-staged production of Sunday in the Park with George.



Three Tony Award-winning actors head the cast of the Chicago production: Michael Cerveris stars in the title role with Audra McDonald as his mistress Dot and Patti LuPone as Yvonne, the wife of a rival painter. The remainder of the cast comprises Sharon Carlson (Old Lady), Lucia Spina (Nurse), Richard Marlatt (Jules), Chris Garbrecht (Boatman), Johanna McKenzie Miller (Celeste 1/Fantasy Dot), Karla L. Beard (Celeste 2/Fantasy Dot), Rae Gray (Louise), Gary Alexander (Franz), Roberta Duchak (Frieda), Matt Pearson (Soldier), Stephen Wallem (Louis), Joseph Bowen (Mr.), Lucia Spina (Mrs.), Stephen Colella (Ensemble Man) and Kelly Cronin (Ensemble Woman) with "Seurats" played by Joshua Johnston, Jacob Langfelder, Travis Turner, Dawen Wang, Michael Witwer and Chris Yonan.

Sunday marks a reunion for McDonald, Cerveris and LuPone, who co-starred in the Ravinia's production of Sondheim's Passion last summer. Lonny Price, who helmed the Passion mounting, directs here as well with Paul Gemignani conducting the Ravinia Festival Orchestra.

The Ravinia is celebrating its 100th anniversary this summer, and Sunday in the Park with George is part of the theatre's aforementioned Sondheim 75 series, a five-year salute to the works of the famed composer, which will culminate in 2005 with Sondheim's 75th birthday. To date, the Ravinia has presented stagings of Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music and Passion.

In a statement Ravinia Festival President and CEO Welz Kauffman said, "One of the great songs of Sunday in the Park with George is 'Children and Art.' Ravinia has long been dedicated to both. How appropriate that in this centennial season of our beautiful park, we get to present an important work that seems to be custom-made for Ravinia’s picturesque setting. . . .Ravinia Festival’s music theater initiative investigates the symbiotic relationship between drama and music, and we selected Stephen Sondheim to be the centerpiece of this initiative because his works so successfully explore and exploit the color, weight and grandeur of the orchestra. I have been extremely gratified that lawn audiences have grown for our Sondheim concerts, because this shows that people recognize the musical value of works originally conceived as theatrical events.”

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Sunday in the Park with George 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.

A Tony Award winner for her work in Evita, Patti LuPone also earned an Olivier Award for her performances in the West End productions of Lés Misérables and The Cradle Will Rock. Her other theatrical credits include Sunset Boulevard, Anything Goes, Oliver!, Working, The Old Neighborhood, Master Class and Pal Joey. LuPone also headlined two solo concerts, Patti LuPone On Broadway and Matters of the Heart, and received glowing notices for her performance as Mrs. Lovett in the Lincoln Center concert version of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd.

A four-time Tony Award winner for her work in Master Class, Carousel, A Raisin in the Sun and Ragtime, Audra McDonald was on Broadway last season in Henry IV. She also received a Tony nomination for Marie Christine. The singer-actress made her solo Carnegie Hall concert debut in an evening of songs scored for big bands, performing several tunes from her Nonesuch CD "Happy Songs." McDonald's other solo recordings, "Way Back to Paradise" and "How Glory Goes," are also on the Nonesuch label. She also co-starred in the recent NBC series "Mister Sterling” and was seen this summer in the premiere of Michael John LaChiusa's R Shomon.

Michael Cerveris received a 2004 Tony Award for his performance as John Wilkes Booth in the Broadway bow of Stephen Sondheim's Assassins. He received a Tony nomination for his performance in the title role of The Who's Tommy, a part he also played for two years in Germany. Cerveris originated the role of architect Thomas Andrews in the Tony-winning musical Titanic and also appeared onstage in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Total Eclipse, Abingdon Square, Life Is a Dream, Wintertime and the Kennedy Center and Ravinia mountings of Passion.

Sunday in the Park with George will play the Ravinia Festival Sept. 3 and 4 at 8 PM and Sept. 5 at 7 PM. The Ravinia theatre is located in Highland Park, IL; for more information, go to www.ravinia.org.