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Mar 29th, 2017
Artists draw inspiration in many forms and oftentimes it is their interpretation of how they have experienced an inspiration that leads them to unleash their talents. It might be a person they encounter, the texture from a piece of fabric, the sound of a moving train or, a roaring fire. For Georges Seurat, it was color and light and their complex relationship which captivated him. Seurat was fascinated, and frankly obsessed with the innovative painting technique he devised in the 1880s known as chromoluminarism and pointillism, which is evident in his renowned three-meter canvas painting titled: A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which took him two years to complete.
Cue two brilliant artists who were inspired by said painting to tell the story behind the story. Stephen Sondheim (Music and Lyrics) and James Lapine (Book) are no strangers to storytelling, both boast an impressive award-heavy resume, and Sunday in the Park with George ran true to form. The original production opened on Broadway in 1984 and was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, of which it won two (both for design). Sondheim and Lapine also won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama with George's struggle to fulfill his artistic passion and find meaning in life between creativity and reality, dark and light, still resonating even true today.
Sunday in the Park with George has leading man Jake Gyllenhaal playing this role for its second Broadway revival, adding yet another superb artist! I have admired Gyllenhaal's talent for many years, and it was an absolute delight to see him on stage portraying this intricate character. Gyllenhaal brings a vulnerability and intimacy to each role he plays and to see his work on stage is further testament of his mastery in the acting craft. He is not only a gorgeous performer but a very handsome man with many fans who will flock to see him live! The Gyllenholics will not be disappointed and will no doubt be extremely impressed by his singing chops! Yes, the man is quite perfect! He has a playful approach to each song and reveals the mischief, torment and loneliness George has to endure as he fights for what he believes in - persevering until his work is recognised, no matter the cost.
Gyllenhaal brings tremendous intensity to Sondheim's expressive score. He sings with gusto and commitment to each note and yet gives us very little eye contact making you feel somewhat isolated from him. You then realize this story is centered around his heart and mind and only when he faces his inner thoughts and feelings does he confront the audience as he sings "Move On". It is his moment of actualization and a call to action, not only for George but for all who are listening. During the song, he insists that he wants to do something meaningful with his life, to understand the light. Overall, it is a bit like the film Inception, written by an artist about an artist played by another artist, inspiring artists!
Dot played by Annaleigh Ashford sings alongside him with love and support. She is one of the few people who understands and admires his passion and reveals his gentleness. Ashford offers the comedic relief and light needed in George's world, she is a brilliant performer who has an innocence about her that is quirky and adorable. Together, they make a striking pair.
Beowulf Boritt's simple scenic design is interesting, it acts as the blank canvas for George's mind allowing the people and their emotions to fill the space, rather than material objects. In the second act the earthly items such as the large screen, and light display have a jarring effect, craving attention and yet the object that stands out the most is the little red book, Dot's diary, drawing us in and making us wonder whose story will be told next?
Sunday in the Park with George resembles a connect-the-dots template. Each dot is imperative to create the bigger picture, and while the picture may not always look perfect, sometimes messy and chaotic, we are left with an image to admire. This production leaves you with an appreciation for art in every form, and makes you wonder what we are doing to preserve it. What we are doing to encourage and inspire young artists and most importantly, are we able to find the light in our own world and recognize the beauty that surrounds us. Art is alive on Broadway!
View our show pages for more information about Sunday In The Park With George, Savoy Theatre.
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