The revival of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park With George is faultlessly sublime. If you are a musical theatre lover, stop reading this review and instantaneously go buy tickets, before they have sold out, as this is a limited run. You will be thanking me later for this tip. If tomorrow morning there are any tickets left, I would honestly be shocked. Staged at the acoustically magnificent Hudson Theatre, this is a night of theatre, I will never forget. It is no wonder Sondheim and Lapine won the Pulitzer Prize for this masterpiece.
The show has always had it’s faults. In the 1984 production, the second act just never worked and you never quite understood why Dot loved George. The same with the 2004 and 2008 version. Sondheim’s glorious lyrics and hauntingly spectacular music drew theatre lovers, because it is musical poetry. The musical language seeps into your soul, seers it and you are never the same. With Jake Gyllenhaal as George, your heart aches with his entrapment into color and light. His obsession with his work, tugs at his wanting to connect to Dot and others. He is brooding, he is magnetic and we fall like Dot, in love. Gyllenhaal vocals are impeccable. He understands musical nuances and brings such passion and longing to the role.
As Dot, Annaleigh Ashford brings humor and a flirtatious quality that makes her more human. Ashford and Gyllenhaal generate heat and intimacy so the loss of their love in the 1980’s, makes a greater impact in 2017. Now the second act has past lives colliding with their present incarnations and it is fulfilling.
In Act 1, Seurat’s complexed preoccupation with his art, has Dot leaving when he can not connect to her, or the child she carries. In Act 2 Seurat’s descendant George, an artist in his own right (also Gyllenhaal) does art but in a technological way. One of the changes in this version, is there is different musical interludes and the “chromolume” is brought to life. When it does the combination of light, color and music is transformative and if you are like I am, you will burst into tears at the sheer genius of it all. George is losing his connection and Marie, Dot’s surviving daughter (Ashford) and George’s grandmother dies, he goes back to the “La Grand Jatte.” There Dot reinsures him that love and art transcend time.
Director Sarna Lapine, James Lapine’s niece, directs this 20 member cast with fluid aplomb. Ms. Lapine should be on everybody’s radar after this. Lapine’s book is faultless now and Sondheim’s magnificent score reaches even farther into our beings, to transport us to musical heaven. We become the dots in the paintings and just as emerged as George. The 14-member orchestra under music director Chris Fenwick also enchants, thanks to Michael Starobin’s orchestrations. The lighting design by Ken Billington is dazzling.
The cast is all superb with Penny Fuller as Seurat mother, Robert Sean Leonard as the disapproving artist, Philip Boykin, Ruthie Ann Miles, Claybourne Elder, Liz McCartney, Erin Davie, Michael McElroy, Brooks Ashmanskas, Jennifer Sanchez, Jenni Barber and Ashley Park all taking smaller roles to make distinguished and triumphant musical theatre history.
I could see this production every night of it’s run and never tire of its beauty and effect on my soul. This is why I review theatre.
Sunday in the Park With George: Hudson Theatre, 145 West 44th St. until April 23rd.
T2C Talks With Rajesh Bose on Life Of Pi’s Opening Night and More
Lolita Chakrabarti’s Life Of Pi, the new drama is adapted from the novel by Yann Martel makes its Broadway debut tonight at the Gerald Schoenfeld theatre. T2C talked with Rajesh Bose who plays Pi’s father.
Rajesh is an actor who has worked regional and Off-Broadway. He performed with The Bedlam Theatre Company in The Crucible and Pygmalion, Henry VI forNAATCO), Against The Hillside for the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Indian Ink at the Roundabout, Oslo at St. Louis Rep, Mary Stuart at the Folger Theatre, Guards at the Taj for Capital Stage, Disgraced at Playmakers Rep, Huntington Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre winning the Connecticut Critics Circle Award and an IRNE Nomination. The Who & The What at Gulfshore Playhouse and The Invisible Hand at the Westport Country Playhouse and Hartford TheaterWorks.
Rajesh’s film and television roles include “Quantico”, “Blue Bloods”, “Elementary”, “Blacklist”, “Damages”, “Nurse Jackie”, “Madame Secretary”, “The Good Wife”, “Law & Order: SVU”, “Criminal Minds”, the series finale of “The Sopranos”, and the Academy Award nominated film Frozen River.
T2C wish the Life of Pi and very happy opening.
Video by Magda Katz
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim birthday was March 22nd and somehow I missed it. His masterpiece Sweeney Todd opened on Broadway originally March 1, 1979, at the Uris Theatre (now the Gershwin). His newest revival opened Sunday, March 26th at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. So here’s to you Steve.
Broadway’s Parade, a Masterpiece and Master Class, Not to be Missed.
With a blast of bright white light, the Broadway revival of Parade marches itself forcibly onto the stage, surging from the sidelines once the love-making center stage comes to an end. It’s a compelling beginning, one that, as it turns out, doesn’t really add a whole lot to the proceedings. But the show finds its strong footing soon after. No doubt about it. I didn’t really understand the full need for the sexual interaction between the young soldier (Charlie Webb) and his pretty young companion (Ashlyn Maddox) that takes place in those first few moments, as well as the consistent reappearing of that same soldier, 50 years later, as an old man (Howard McGillin) throughout, other than to remind us that the old Confederate way of thinking still flies its flag strong and true. Even if the flags they are waving in this production of Parade make us feel uneasy and unsure.
Overall, the compounding effect is captivating and intense, as this musical, with a book by Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy), music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown (Songs for a New World; The Last Five Years), and originally co-conceived by Harold Prince (West Side Story), stands strong, taking on race, antisemitism, and prejudice in “The Old Red Hills of Home” South. It dutifully dramatizes the disturbing but true story of a 1913 trial of a Jewish factory manager who was wrongly accused and convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old young girl and employee of the factory. The musical revival is as timely as can be, and as surefooted as one could hope for. And as directed carefully and artistically by Michael Arden (Broadway/Deaf West’s Spring Awakening), Parade delivers on all fronts.
After a well-received short run as part of New York City Center’s Encores! series, this tense and sharp musical finally has made its way back. I didn’t really know much about this musical, but I was surprised to hear that it first premiered on Broadway in December 1998 starring Brent Carver and Carolee Carmello in the two lead roles. It won Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Original Score (out of nine nominations), not surprisingly, and six Drama Desk Awards. And I’m guessing the accolades will come pouring in once again when the Tony Award nominations are announced.
Portraying that doomed factory manager, Leo Frank, Ben Platt (Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen) once again finds power and passion in abundance, striding back onto the Broadway stage both sheepishly and strongly. He grabs hold of the part, demanding justice and the truth for the man who tried his imperfect best to live a dutiful life. Married to his loving wife, Lucille, played spectacularly by Micaela Diamond (Broadway’s The Cher Show), the pair seems well-matched, both in their characterizations and their vocal expertise. Their singing and emotionality soar, especially in Lucille’s “You Don’t Know This Man” and Leo’s captivating Statement, “It’s Hard to Speak my Heart“, as the piece gets darker and darker, breaking apart our collective hearts as it marches to the end. We all know this is not going to end well for this innocent man, but we are drawn in completely as the two begin, quite quietly, finding a simple and tender, yet complicated connection in their marriage.
We feel their bond as Leo gets ready and makes his way to the office on this odd day of celebration in Atlanta. He sidesteps the parade, which is oddly celebrating the confederacy and a war lost, leaving his wife to picnic alone. We collectively wish he’d stay home, giving in to the gentle pleas of his wife. Things might have turned out so differently if he had. But this is the tale that must be told, to be witness to, as we are simultaneously given a glimpse into the soon-to-be shortened life of Mary Phagan (Erin Rose Doyle), being flirted with by a young boy (Jake Pedersen) about “The Picture Show“, as she rides a trolley car on her way to the factory to collect her wages, at ten cents an hour. The white balloon floats above her head, just like her spirit, simple and buoyant, until it escapes her hand, and floats away from her into the heavens above.
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