Freshly Framed, Sunday in the Park With George Revival Opens on Broadway

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21 Feb 2008

<I>George</I> and Dot, Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell.
George and Dot, Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell.
Photo by Joan Marcus

The acclaimed, Olivier Award-winning London revival of James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park With George, the Pulitzer Prize-winning rumination on "children and art," opens at Broadway's Studio 54 on Feb. 21.

The Roundabout Theatre Company, partnering with commercial producers, presents the Menier Chocolate Factory production of the 1984 musical that mixes historical figures, fictional characters and the Parisian subjects of a famed pointillist painting to create a rare exploration of what it is to be an artist in the modern age ("modern" being the 1880s in Act One and the 1980s in Act Two).

The Oliver-winning stars of the recent London run, Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell, re-create their roles of Georges and Dot (in Act One) and George and Marie (in Act Two). Their work is captured on a London cast album on the PS Classics label. Broadway previews began Jan. 25.

Sam Buntrock again directs this visually-stunning new staging, which uses 21st century technology to create the world and work of 19th-century painter Georges Seurat and his (fictionalized) heir, American inventor-sculptor George. Projection design is by Timothy Bird & The Knifedge Creative Network. Filling the white space of the set, the projected animated images have prompted gasps of delight from preview audiences.

According to Roundabout, "The Georges Seurat painting, 'A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,' is the inspiration for this compelling musical fantasy which celebrates the art of creation and the creation of art. The first half of Sunday in the Park with George, set in 1884, sees the painting and its rich comic tapestry come to life in a world where, for Georges, art comes before love, before everything. In the second half, set in 1980s New York, we see the great grandson of Georges and his search for inspiration amongst the unfolding world of contemporary art."



According to a note in the Playbill, "Although suggested by the life of Georges Seurat and by his painting 'A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,' all characters in Sunday in the Park With George are products of the author's imagination." (In the cast list and printed script, the Act One artist is "George" rather than "Georges," perhaps to suggest a slight separation from the real-life French artist.)

The new Broadway cast also boasts Michael Cumpsty (Jules & Bob), Alexander Gemignani (Boatman & Dennis) and Jessica Molaskey (Yvonne & Naomi), with Mary Beth Peil (Old Lady & Blair), Ed Dixon (Mr. & Charles), Santino Fontana (Soldier & Alex), Kelsey Fowler (Louise), Jessica Grové (Celeste #2 & Silent Artist), Alison Horowitz (Louise), Stacie Morgain Lewis (Frieda & Betty), Drew McVety (Louis & Billy), Anne L. Nathan (Nurse, Mrs. & Harriet), Brynn O'Malley (Celeste #1), David Turner (Franz & Lee) and Colleen Fitzpatrick, Jeff Kready, Hayley Podschun and Andrew Varela.

Musical staging is by Christopher Gattelli (Altar Boyz). Musical supervisor and conductor is Caroline Humphris. Set and costume design is by David Farley. Lighting design is by Ken Billington. Sound design is by Sebastian Frost. Orchestrations are by Jason Carr. Hair and wig design is by Tom Watson.

Studio 54 on Broadway is located at 254 West 54th Street. Tickets for the limited engagement are on sale through June 1.

Sunday in the Park with George plays Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8 PM with a Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinee at 2 PM.

Tickets are available by calling Roundabout Ticket Services at (212) 719-1300, or by visiting www.roundabouttheatre.org or the Studio 54 box office. Ticket prices range from $36.25-$121.25.

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In the 2007 Laurence Olivier Awards in London, the Menier production won in the categories of Outstanding Musical Production, Best Lighting Design, Best Set Design, Best Actress in a Musical for Jenna Russell and Best Actor in a Musical for Daniel Evans. The production premiered at Menier in November 2005 (Russell was not Dot there) and moved to the West End (with Russell) in 2006.

The original 1984 Broadway production of Sunday in the Park With George starred Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters (who were both Tony Award-nominated). The production snagged two 1984 Tony Awards in the categories of Best Scenic Design (Tony Straiges) and Best Lighting Design (Richard Nelson). It was also nominated for Best Musical, Best Score (Sondheim), Best Direction (Lapine), Best Book (Lapine), Best Featured Actress (Dana Ivey), Best Costume Design (Patricia Zipprodt and Ann Hould-Ward).

Tony-wise, 1984 was a year that belonged to La Cage aux Folles (Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book, and more). La Cage songwriter Jerry Herman's Tony acceptance speech about the "show tune" being alive and well that year (an apparent response to Sunday's modernist theatre music) fueled arguments and conversations in the community about what show tunes can — or should — be.

Songs from Sunday's score would go on to be recorded and sung on records and in concert. Barbra Streisand's "The Broadway Album" gave "Putting It Together" (using a revised lyric) wide life. "Finishing the Hat" is a favorite song of male vocalists. "Move On" has since become an anthem of sorts for those seeking personal or creative evolution.

Sunday in the Park With George won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Playwrights Horizons produced the original production of Sunday in the Park With George in 1983, prior to its move to Broadway.

David Babani is artistic director of The Menier Chocolate Factory. Todd Haimes is artistic director of The Roundabout Theatre Company.

The above-the-title producers who are in association with Roundabout on this production are Bob Boyett, Debra Black, Jam Theatricals, Stephanie P. McClelland, Stewart F. Lane/Bonnie Comley, Barbara Manocherian/Jennifer Manocherian, Ostar Productions.