Sunday In The Park With George

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheimsunday in the park porchlight music theatre

Book by James Lapine

Directed by L. Walter Sterns

Music Direction by Eugen Dizon

Choreographed by Andrew Waters

Produced by Porchlight Music Theatre

At Stage 773, Chicago

Well sung sophisticated multi-media elements fuel Sondheim’s art piece

Seldom to you see one actor so dominate a musical as Brandon Dahlquist did playing Georges Seurat, the obsessed 19th Century French painter!  Dahlquist’s golden voice deftly navigated the tough Sondheim lyrics especially in the “Finishing The Hat,”  “Putting It Together” and “Move On.”

sunday in the park with george

The musical follows Seurat as he journeys towards completion of his “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” landscape. His lover and main model is Dot, played and sung expertly by Jess Godwin. Dot is Georges’ lover deprived due to his obsession of his work. Sondheim wrote songs for the people that populate the Parisian Island in 1886 from Dot’s lament to the rigors of still modeling to the gossip surrounding the painter who appeared every Sunday to paint. Sondheim gives Georges and Dot a telling duet, “Color and Light” that speaks to Dot’s loneliness and Seurat’s attention to detail.  Act one ends with the entire cast  in still pose just as the famous painting seems to come to life.  The large circles in the background of Amanda Sweger’s set became a distraction but the final canvas presenting Seurat’s masterpiece was effective.

sunday in the park with george, porchlight music theatre

Act two finds George, a young modern artist working in electronic image design, also played by Brandon Dahlquist, in a vivid display of image art as his 98 year old grandmother Marie (Jess Godwin) looks on. Marie tells George that he is the grandson of the Seurat. Act two reinforces Sondheim’s look at the creative process with tunes like “Putting It Together” and the anthem “Move On” that was emotionally belted in grand voices by Goodwin and Dahlquist.

sunday in the park with george, porchlight music theatre

Sunday In The Park With George is an art piece musical that is subtle and eclectic. It is dedicated to exploring the world of creativity and the sacrifices one makes to be an artist. To some it may appear too slow moving with show specific songs, to me it is a sophisticated, demanding show that taxes theatricality but ultimately delivers. Walter Stearns aptly blends Sondheim’s  passionate songs with the obsession for George to break new ground in painting technique.  He has cast well as the ensemble, especially Bil Ingraham as Jules. Mina Hyun-ok-Hong’s costumes were terrific.

sunday in the park with george, porchlight music theatre

Porchlight’s Sunday In The Park With George features excellent music from Eugen Dizon’s orchestra. This Sondheim classic needs be explored. Brandon Dahlquist gave a spirited performance.

Recommended

Tom Williams

At Stage 773 (formerly Theatre Building Chicago), 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL, 773-327-5252, wwwstage773.com, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission.