Putting it together." That's what Washington DC's Arena Stage and Signature Theatre will be doing when they co-produce a revival of Stephen Sondheim's Sunday In The Park With George, opening April 20 at Arena. Directing will be Eric D. Schaeffer, artistic director of Signature Theatre.
Said Schaeffer, Sondheim's work is so innovative, his musicals are dark, passionate, interesting -- it is really appropriate that we have been equally innovative in our efforts to produce the work."
These innovations include the decision to change the George of act two from a maker of chromolumes into a more computer-age "pixillist." The George of act one is, of course, George Seurat, whose masterwork, "A Sunday On La Grande Jatte -- 1884" broke the traditions of French painting with its pointillist approach. (The painting hangs at the Art Institute of Chicago.) State-of-the-art projections will take the place of the original's laser show.
There was also talk of adding a Sondheim song initially dropped from the Broadway production of Sunday, but that didn't pan out. There will be some new lyrics for the show's signature tune, "Putting It Together."
Schaeffer told Playbill On-Line (April 3) that George will now be a visual artist in television design, and the multi-media design will reflect that. I thought of the idea and James [Lapine] said `go for it' and updated the script (one lyric has changed from "Where lasers are expensive" to "where optics are expensive"). He also took out a reference to sculpture, since this George is much more conceptualist." Visually the show is totally different and has a whole different concept of what was done before. Even in the first act, there are no pop-ups in the production. The audience has to put the painting together, fill in the dots, section by section in the no-man's-land. Later on we process the "Grand Jatte" painting, and it's really great now when you see the dots go into the pixels."
On the more human side, Schaeffer said real-life husband and wife Liz Larsen and Sal Viviano, as George and Dot, are finding their own interesting moments. "In `We Do Not Belong Together," we see them screaming at each other. These two characters go places we don't want to in real life, so it's fascinating to see."
If all goes well with the production, Arena managing director Douglas Wager hopes to extend it past the June 15 closing date. Also starring in the show are Dana Krueger, Donna Migliaccio, Robert DuSold, SuEllen Estey, Netousha Harris/Roxanne Orkin, Larry Redmond, Wallace Acton, Carter Calvert, Christopher Monteleone, Andrew Ross Wynn, Daniel Patrick Felton, April Harr Blandin, Sherri L. Edelen.
Larsen appeared on Broadway in Starmites and the revival of Damn Yankees. Viviano was seen in Falsettos, City Of Angels and Romance/Romance.
Jon Kalbfleisch serves as musical director/conductor for the show, which has sets by Zack Brown, costumes by Patricia Zipprodt (who did costumes for the show on Broadway as well), lighting by Allen Lee Hughes, and sound by Timothy Thompson.
For tickets ($28-$47) and information on Sunday In The Park With George, call (202) 488-3300.