Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sunday in the Park with George

I saw “Sunday in the Park with George” last Wednesday at Studio 54. I’m not sure if it’s a great production. There is, as always, that heavily reduced Roundabout orchestra, five pieces for this one. It always sounds a little chintzy to me, but they are getting better at faking a fuller sound. The two leads are good, but the woman in particular does not erase the memory of Bernadette Peters and that clarion voice full of longing.

But this production sneaked up on me . It’s less about the distinction of the players than it is about the genius of Sondheim. The physical production is stunning. My friend Brian said that the technology had finally caught up with this musical, and he's right. And because the second act takes place in the early 80s, George's art can be presented as a faddish period piece - a Lite Brite in a museum. Because of that, story-wise it now works. Technology actually works here to tell the story.

And the music. There’s that amazing Sondheim score. I find that music resonates more and more the older I get. And the second act now, instead of feeling like an afterthought, feels like the emotional climax of the piece. The first act is great – the songs, the world of Seurat – but it’s now the second act, and George’s longings and cruelties and loneliness – now that’s what it’s about.

I blubbered and sniffled a bit during the first act. The second act, I basically started crying at “Children and Art” and just continued till the end when the hanky was ready to wring out.

I don’t know if this is a great production, but it hits me like a wrecking ball.

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