Julian Ovenden, Michael Starobin and More Paint a New Sunday in the Park with George in Paris

By St
16 Apr 2013

Julien Ovendon

Julian Ovenden (George)
British actor Julian Ovenden works both in London and New York, on stage and on TV. He recently starred in the world-premiere musical Finding Neverland.

About Sunday in the Park With George and the challenges of playing the role of George:
"This is one of my favorite pieces, and one of the reasons I became an actor. I think the music is amazing. Beside the fact that it's an absolutely brilliant composition, it has an emotional core to it that's very effective and affecting. The characters are very interesting and there are many levels to play: You don't often get that complexity in musicals. This role is a great challenge in lots of different ways: physically, technically, emotionally. You have to find links between Act I and Act II and lead the audience through that. There are also a lot of different types of singing in it, for example, the 'dog stuff' in Act I, and the more Broadway kind of sound of Act II."

About performing this musical in Paris:
"When Seurat was painting his work, no one wanted to see it. And then, as years went by, people realized he was a genius. I think it's a little bit the same with Sunday. Parisians don't know about this musical and it should be seen. Paris has become more educated about musicals - especially Sondheim's - over the last few years. If there's any piece in his work that belongs in France, it's this one. Parisian audiences are very happy to use their minds. I hope they will respond to it."

David Charles Abell (Conductor)
British-American David Charles Abell has conducted Sondheim's music all over the world, including Japan (Pacific Overtures), London (Sondheim at 80) and France (Sweeney Todd in Paris, Follies in Toulon).

About Sunday in the Park With George:
"I saw it on Broadway in 1984 when it first opened. I was living in New York at the time and some friends said, 'You have to see it.' I went... and I didn't get it. I love Sondheim's musicals, but this one, I thought, was a little strange. I went back a second time and found it interesting. Then I got the cast album and watched the video, and eventually, it became one my favorite musicals. It's because anyone who works in the arts deals with the same issues George is dealing with. You have to be obsessed with your work and you have to work very hard if you want to be good and succeed. But we all want to have a personal life, too, and sometimes, you can't do the two things. Rehearsing it, I would get very emotional, because you think of what you have to give up. But I also think that I'm luckier than George because I have someone who understands me and who is an artist as well."

About rediscovering the score with new orchestrations:
"I have done three of the songs [from Sunday] in big orchestrations, at the Proms. It doesn't surprise me at all that that music can take a bigger treatment that is appropriate for some of the songs, because the emotions in the songs are very big. The Act I and Act II finales are perfect for a big theatre, a big orchestra and a big treatment. They sound quite glorious. We played them for the first time yesterday, and everyone was so moved. So, it is a rediscovery but we're very fortunate to have the original orchestrator, Michael Starobin, returning to his work to do a large version. It's like painting, in a way: in 1984, maybe he had five colors and now he has 30."


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