Sunday in the Park with George
|Sunday in the Park with George|
Original Broadway Playbill Cover
|Basis||Georges Seurat's painting
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
1986 U.S. television
1990 West End
1994 Broadway concert
2006 West End revival
2008 Broadway revival
|Awards||1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
1985 Drama Desk Outstanding Musical
1985 Drama Desk Outstanding Book
1985 Drama Desk Outstanding Lyrics
1991 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical
2007 Olivier Outstanding Musical
Sunday in the Park with George is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. The musical was inspired by the painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat. A complex work revolving around a fictionalized Seurat immersed in single-minded concentration while painting his masterpiece and the people in that picture, the Broadway production opened in 1984.
The musical won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, two Tony Awards for design (and a nomination for Best Musical), numerous Drama Desk Awards, the 1991 Olivier Award for Best Musical and the 2007 Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production. It has enjoyed several major revivals, including the 2005-06 UK production first presented at the Menier Chocolate Factory and its subsequent 2008 Broadway transfer.
- 1 Synopsis
- 2 History
- 3 Productions
- 4 Musical numbers
- 5 Characters
- 6 Casts of major productions
- 7 Television and video
- 8 Cast recordings
- 9 Awards and nominations
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
- Act I
In 1884, Georges Seurat, known as George in the musical, is sketching studies for his famous painting, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte." He announces to the audience: "White, a blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole, through design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony." He conjures up the island, a small suburban park, around him, and retains some control of his surroundings as he draws them. His longtime mistress, Dot, models for him, despite her frustrations at having to get up early on a Sunday. ("Sunday in the Park with George"). More regulars at the park begin to arrive: a quarrelsome Old Lady and her Nurse discuss how Paris is changing to accommodate a tower for the International Exposition, but the Nurse is more interested in a German coachman, Franz. The quiet of the park is interrupted by a group of rude bathers. George freezes them with a gesture, setting them as the subjects of his first painting, Bathers at Asnières. The setting abruptly changes to a gallery where the painting is on display. Jules (a more successful artist friend of George's) and his wife Yvonne think George's work has ("No Life"). Back on the island, Jules and Yvonne have a short discussion with George and depart. They take their coachman Franz with them, interrupting Franz's rendezvous with the Nurse. Dot, who has grown tired of standing still in the early morning sunlight, leaves the park mollified after George promises to take her to the Follies. George approaches the Old Lady, revealed to be his mother, and requests to draw her, but she bluntly refuses.
In George's studio he works on his painting obsessively while Dot prepares for their date and fantasizes about being a Follies girl. ("Color and Light"). When George briefly stops painting to clean his brushes, he and Dot reflect on how fascinated they are by each other. Dot is ready to leave, but George chooses to continue painting instead, greatly upsetting her.
In the park, on a Sunday some time later, George sketches a disgruntled Boatman to the disapproval of an observing Jules. Dot enters on the arm of Louis, a baker. Two chatting shop girls, both named Celeste, notice Dot with a new man ("Gossip"). When Jules and Yvonne's daughter Louise attempts to pet the Boatman's dog, he shouts at her, then lashes out at George and storms off. George and Dot have an awkward, strained conversation as she works on the grammar book she is using to teach herself how to read and write. As Jules and Yvonne mock the unconventional nature of George's art, they discuss an initiative to have his work included in the next group show, which they both protest. George sketches two dogs while whimsically trying to imagine the world from their perspective, describing their relief to be free of their routines on Sunday ("The Day Off"). As the day goes on, George quietly sketches denizens of the park: The two Celestes try to attract the attention of a pair of Soldiers, fighting over which will get the more handsome of the two; The Nurse hides from the Old Lady and attempts to attract Franz's attention; a Franz and his wife Frieda argue with Louise and each other; a pair of wealthy American tourists pass by, hating everything about Paris but the pastries, and plan to return home with a baker in tow; Jules returns to further lecture George on his shortcomings as an artist, receiving in response an invitation to see his new painting; the Boatman reappears to rebuke the condescending attitude of artists. Dot sees George, but he slips away before she can speak to him, and in retaliation she describes her satisfying new life with Louis. She clearly misses and loves George, but Louis loves, respects and needs her in a way George cannot, and she has made her choice ("Everybody Loves Louis").
As the park empties for the evening, George returns. He misses Dot and laments that his art has alienated him from those important to him, but resigns himself to the likelihood that creative fulfillment may always take precedence, for him, over personal happiness ("Finishing the Hat").
Time has passed, and a heavily pregnant Dot visits George's studio. She asks for a painting George made of her, but he refuses. Jules and Yvonne come to the studio to see George's nearly-finished painting. While Jules goes with George to see the painting, Yvonne and Dot hold a wary conversation. Once they realize they have both felt neglected at the hands of an artist, their mutual dislike fades and they discuss the difficulties of trying to maintain a romantic relationship with an artist. Meanwhile, Jules is puzzled by George's new technique, and concerned that George's obsession with his work is alienating him from his fellow artists and collectors alike. He refuses to support the work. Jules and Yvonne leave, and George, having forgotten Dot was there, goes back to work. Dot reveals the real reason for her visit: despite the obvious fact that her unborn child was fathered by George, she and Louis are getting married and leaving for America. He angrily retreats behind his canvas, and she begs him to react, in some way, to her news. They argue bitterly about their failed relationship, and Dot concludes sadly that while George may be capable of self-fulfilment, she is not and they must part ("We Do Not Belong Together").
In the park the Old Lady finally agrees to sit for George, losing herself in fond memories of his childhood that George repeatedly points out as false. She bemoans the changing skyline of Paris, and he encourages to see the beauty in the world as it is, rather than how it has been ("Beautiful"). The American Tourists arrive with Louis and Dot, who holds her newborn daughter, Marie. George refuses to acknowledge her, or his child, able to offer only a feeble apology as Dot departs sadly.
The park grows noisy: the Celestes and the Soldier argue over their respective break-ups while Jules and Frieda sneak away to have a clandestine affair in the park. Louise informs Yvonne of her father's infidelity and a fight breaks out between Jules, Yvonne, Franz, and Frieda. While this conflict develops the Celestes and the Soldier squabble noisily, and soon all the park-goers are fighting furiously, until the Old Lady shouts, "Remember, George!", and he stops them all with a gesture. George takes control of the subjects of his painting, who sing in beautific harmony as he transforms them into the final tableau of his finished painting. ("Sunday")
- Act II
As the curtain opens the characters – still in the tableau – complain about being stuck in the painting ("It's Hot Up Here"). The characters deliver short eulogies for George, who died suddenly at 31.
The action fast-forwards a century later to 1984. George and Dot's great-grandson, who is also an artist named George, is at a museum unveiling his latest work: a light machine called "Chromolume #7", an artistic reflection on Seurat's painting. George presents the work, grounding its connection to the painting by inviting his 98-year-old grandmother, Marie, to help him present the work. Marie shares her family history, describing how her mother, Dot, informed her on her deathbed that she was the daughter of the famous painter. George is reluctant to believe in that particular bit of family lore, but Marie insists that the notes in Dot's grammar book, which mention George, contain proof. After a brief technical failure, the Chromolume is unveiled.
At the reception, various patrons and curators congratulate George on his work while George flits between them, commenting about the difficulties of producing modern art ("Putting It Together"). Like his great-grandfather, he conjures his surroundings, allowing himself to hold multiple conversations at once. The only voice he finds he cannot ignore is that of an art critic who advises him that he is repeating himself and wasting his gifts. After the museum's patrons have left for dinner, Marie speaks to her mother's image in the painting, worrying about George. When he arrives to take her home, she tells him about her mother, attempting to pass on a message about the legacy we leave behind ("Children and Art"). She dozes off and George, alone with the painting, realizes he is lacking connection.
Weeks later, Marie has died and George has been invited by the French government to do a presentation of the Chromolume on the island where the painting was made. On the island, George reveals to his friend Dennis that he has turned down his next commission. Feeling adrift and unsure, George reads from a book he inherited from his grandmother – the same book Dot used to learn to read – and ponders the similarities between himself and his great-grandfather ("Lesson #8"). A vision of Dot appears and greets George, who she addresses as if he was the George she knew. He confides his doubts to her and she tells him to stop worrying about whether his choices are the right ones and simply make them ("Move On"). George finds some words written in the back of the book – the words George often muttered while he worked. As George reads them aloud the characters from the painting fill the stage and recreate their tableau ("Sunday"). As they leave and the stage resembles a blank canvas, George reads: "White: a blank page or canvas. His favorite – so many possibilities."
Following the failure and scathing critical reception of Merrily We Roll Along in 1981 (the show closed after 16 performances), Sondheim announced his intention to leave the musical theatre to write mystery novels. He was persuaded by Lapine to return to the theatrical world after the two were inspired by "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte", the masterpiece of the French pointillist painter Georges Seurat. Lapine noted that one major figure was missing from the canvas: the artist himself. This observation provided the springboard for the creation of "Sunday" and the production evolved into a meditation on art, emotional connection and community.
The musical fictionalizes the life of Seurat. In fact neither of his children survived beyond infancy and he had no grandchildren. Seurat's common-law wife was Madeleine Knobloch, who gave birth to his two sons, the second after his death. In the musical, he had a daughter, while in reality, he never had a daughter. Unlike Dot in the musical, Knobloch was living with Seurat when he died and she did not emigrate to America. She died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 35.
Original Off-Broadway production
The show opened Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, starring Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters, in July 1983 and ran for 25 performances. Only the first act was performed and even that was still in development. The first act was fleshed out and work began on the second during that time and the complete two-act show was premièred during the last three performances. After seeing the show at Playwrights, composer Leonard Bernstein wrote to his friend Sondheim, calling the show "brilliant, deeply conceived, canny, magisterial and by far the most personal statement I've heard from you thus far. Bravo.". Kelsey Grammer (Young Man on the Bank and Soldier), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Celeste #2) and Christine Baranski (Clarisse, who was later renamed Yvonne) were in the company of the off-Broadway production but did not continue with the show to Broadway.
Original Broadway production
When Sunday opened on Broadway it received mixed responses from critics. The New York Times theatre critic, Frank Rich, wrote: "I do know... that Mr. Sondheim and Mr. Lapine have created an audacious, haunting and, in its own intensely personal way, touching work. Even when it fails - as it does on occasion - Sunday in the Park is setting the stage for even more sustained theatrical innovations yet to come." The musical enjoyed a healthy box office, though the show would ultimately lose money; it closed on October 13, 1985 after 604 performances and 35 previews.
Although it was considered a brilliant artistic achievement for Sondheim and was nominated for ten Tony Awards, it won only two, both for design. (The major winner of the night was Jerry Herman's La Cage aux Folles. In his acceptance speech Herman noted that the "simple, hummable tune" was still alive on Broadway, a remark some perceived as criticism of Sondheim's pointillistic score. Herman has since denied that that was his intent.) Sunday won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Musical and Sondheim and Lapine were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, one of only nine musicals to win the Pulitzer.
On May 15, 1994, the original cast of Sunday in the Park with George returned to Broadway for a tenth anniversary concert, which was also a benefit for "Friends in Deed".
Original London production
The first London production opened at the Royal National Theatre on March 15, 1990 and ran for 117 performances, with Philip Quast as George and Maria Friedman as Dot. The production was nominated for six Laurence Olivier Awards, beating Into the Woods, another collaboration between Lapine and Sondheim, to win Best New Musical. Quast won the award for Best Actor in a Musical.
2005 London revival
The first revival of the show was presented at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London, opening on November 14, 2005 and closing on March 17, 2006. The score was radically re-orchestrated by Jason Carr and starred Daniel Evans and Anna-Jane Casey, with direction by Sam Buntrock. The production transferred to the Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End, opening on May 23, 2006 and closing on September 2, 2006. Jenna Russell replaced the unavailable Casey. The revival received six Olivier Award nominations overall, and won five in total including Outstanding Musical Production, Best Actor in a Musical and Best Actress in a Musical.
2008 Broadway revival
The 2005 London production transferred to Broadway in 2008, where it was produced by Roundabout Theatre Company and Studio 54. As a limited engagement, previews started on January 25, 2008 with an opening on February 21, 2008, running through June 29 (making this the 3rd extension).
Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell (who starred in the 2005-6 London production) reprised their roles with Sam Buntrock directing. The cast included Michael Cumpsty (Jules/Bob), Jessica Molaskey (Yvonne/Naomi), Ed Dixon (Mr./Charles Redmond), Mary Beth Peil (Old Lady/Blair), and Alexander Gemignani (Boatman/Dennis).
Reviewers praised the script and score as well as the innovative design, with praise for the entire cast. Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times "The great gift of this production, first staged in London two years ago, is its quiet insistence that looking is the art by which all people shape their lives. ...a familiar show shimmers with a new humanity and clarity that make theatergoers see it with virgin eyes. And while Sunday remains a lopsided piece — pairing a near-perfect, self-contained first act with a lumpier, less assured second half — this production goes further than any I’ve seen in justifying the second act’s existence." As described in The New York Times "In his [Buntrock's] intimate production, live actors talk to projections, scenery darkens as day turns into night, and animation seamlessly blends into the background...In this new version, thanks to 3-D animation, the painting, currently the crown jewel of the Art Institute of Chicago, slowly comes together onstage. A sketch emerges, then color is added, and the rest gradually comes into focus, piece by piece."
The Broadway production received five Outer Critics Circle Award nominations, three Drama League Award nominations and seven Drama Desk Award nominations including Outstanding Revival of a Musical, Outstanding Actor and Actress in a Musical and Outstanding Director of a Musical. Russell and Evans also received Tony Award nominations for their performances. At the Tony Awards, Russell and Evans performed the song "Move On."
As part of the Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration, the musical was presented in the Eisenhower Theatre from May 31, 2002 to June 28, 2002. Directed by Eric D. Schaeffer, the cast featured Raúl Esparza and Melissa Errico.
This play is of special significance for Chicago in that Seurat's masterpiece, the backdrop of the play, hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago. The Chicago Shakespeare Theater presented the musical in 2002, directed by Gary Griffin in the more intimate, 200 seat, Upstairs Theater. In September 2012, Griffin returned to direct the play in the larger downstairs Courtyard Theater of C.S.T.. Notable in this production is the fact that in the final scene of the play, all of the cast appear in white costumes; the music for the production is supplied by a live orchestra seated above and to the rear of the actors where they can be seen by the audience. Griffin also chose to have as background for the performance a full-stage reproduction of Seurat's work which changed in both content and color to match certain moments in the play. The lead roles were played by Jason Danieley as George, Carmen Cusack as Dot, and Linda Stephens as the Old Lady.
The Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois, presented a semi-staged production for three shows from September 3 to 4, 2004, with Michael Cerveris, Audra McDonald, Patti LuPone and direction by Lonny Price. New Line Theatre in St. Louis produced the show in 2004.
The team responsible for the London revival mounted a production in April 2009 at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, featuring Hugh Panaro, Billie Wildrick, Patti Cohenour, Anne Allgood, Allen Fitzpatrick and Carol Swarbrick.
The Dutch production company M-Lab presented a small-scale production of the musical from June 9 through July 3, 2010.
From April 15 through 25, 2013, the musical was performed in the English language at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, directed by Lee Blakeley featuring the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France led by David Charles Abell. George was played by Julian Ovenden. For this occasion, Michael Starobin reworked his musical arrangements, which were originally tailored to an 11-piece chamber orchestra, to match a full orchestra. The production was taped for radio and TV and has been frequently broadcast in the French Mezzo HD channel which usually only rebroadcasts in-house productions of classical music, opera and jazz that were first presented live on its sister channel Mezzo Live HD.
In July 2013, Victorian Opera staged an acclaimed production in Melbourne, Australia, starring Alexander Lewis as Georges and Christina O'Neill as Dot. It was directed by Stuart Maunder and conducted by Phoebe Briggs. 11 members from the Orchestra Victoria performed the score with Michael Starobin's original orchestrations. Audience members were required to wear 3-D glasses to view the Chromolume in Act 2.
The museum guests of act II are played by the same actors who appear as the park-goers in act I. Traditionally, Dot and Marie are played by the same actress.
Casts of major productions
Television and video
Sunday in the Park with George was taped on October 21–25, 1985 at the Booth Theatre with most of the original Broadway cast. It was broadcast on American television on February 18, 1986 on Showtime and on June 16, 1986 on Public Television's "American Playhouse". (Bernadette Peters, who was performing in Song and Dance at the time of the taping, was given time off from that play in order to be able to tape this production.) This video was released on VHS by Warner Home Video on April 1, 1992; the DVD and laserdisc was released by Image Entertainment on March 23, 1999. The DVD includes full-length commentary from Stephen Sondheim, James Lapine, Mandy Patinkin, and Bernadette Peters.
A number of Desperate Housewives episodes take their names from songs or lyrics from the musical. These are episodes 1.11 - "Move On," 1.21 - "Sunday in the Park with George," 2.7 - "Color and Light," 3.20 - "Gossip", 4.5 - "Art Isn't Easy," 4.11 - "A Vision's Just a Vision," 5.10 - "Sunday," 5.14 - - "Chromolume No. 7," 8.5, "The Art of Making Art,", 8.9 - "Putting it Together" and 8.23 - "Finishing the Hat".
The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode "Suited for Success" has a musical number based on "Putting It Together."
The 1984 original Broadway cast recording was released by RCA in 1984. The remastered recording was released on March 20, 2007 (ASIN: B0009A40KW). The recording, produced by Thomas Z. Shepard, won the 1984 Grammy Award for Best Original Cast Show Album.
The 2006 London cast recording (with the cast of the 2005 revival) was released by PS Classics (2 disc set) on May 30, 2006 (ASIN: B000EZ9048). This is the most complete recording of the score to date. It contains a bonus track – the original, full version of "The One on the Left" (of which only a fraction survives in the final show) performed by Colley, Ellis and Hammarlund.
Awards and nominations
Original Broadway production
Original London production
|1991||Laurence Olivier Award||Best New Musical||Won|
|Best Actor in a Musical||Philip Quast||Won|
|Best Director of a Musical||Steven Pimlott||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Musical||Maria Friedman||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Tom Cairns||Nominated|
|Best Set Design||Nominated|
2005 London revival
|2005||Critics' Circle Theatre Award||Best Designer||Timothy Bird and David Farley||Won|
|2007||Laurence Olivier Award||Outstanding Musical Production||Won|
|Best Actor in a Musical||Daniel Evans||Won|
|Best Actress in a Musical||Jenna Russell||Won|
|Best Set Design||Timothy Bird and David Farley||Won|
|Best Lighting Design||Natasha Chivers and Mike Robertson||Won|
|Best Director||Sam Buntrock||Nominated|
2008 Broadway revival
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- Brantley, Ben."Theater Review: 'Sunday in the Park with George'" The New York Times, February 22, 2008
- Zinoman, Jason."Who’s That Kid Staging Sondheim?" The New York Times, February 17, 2008
- Gans, Andrew."McDonald-LuPone-Cerveris Sunday in the Park with George Begins Sept. 3" playbill.com, September 3, 2004
- "New Line Theatre's Sunday in the Park " newlinetheatre.com
- Hetrick, Adam." Sunday in the Park with George, with Panaro, Opens at 5th Avenue Theatre April 23" playbill.com, April 23, 2009
- Benzel, Jan (2013-04-18). "Supersizing a 'Sunday in the Park'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-04-26.
-  victorianopera.com
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- playbill article
- Tony Awards Official site
- Bauch, Marc. The American Musical. Marburg, Germany: Tectum Verlag, 2003. ISBN 3-8288-8458-X described here
- Bauch, Marc. Themes and Topics of the American Musical after World War II. Marburg, Germany: Tectum Verlag, 2001. ISBN 3-8288-1141-8 described here
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Sunday in the Park with George|
- Sunday in the Park with George at the Internet Broadway Database
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- Sunday in the Park with George on The Stephen Sondheim Reference Guide
- Sunday in the Park with George (London Revival)
- Sunday in the Park with George (Broadway revival with London revival cast, February 2008)
- Sunday in the Park with George at the Music Theatre International website
- NYPL theatrical lighting database, complete lighting paperwork, light plot, hookup, shop order, focus charts, magic sheets and Richard Nelson's production notes, original Broadway production