I have a soft spot for ‘Sunday in the Park with George’ as it was the first Sondheim musical that I was introduced to back in high school. I remember getting the chills as I listened to the CD with Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters. Side note- it was 2002, all we had were CD's and the occasional Napster download. Anyway, when I heard about Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford playing George and Dot, I obviously had to get tickets. Jake is crazy talented (and attractive) and Annaleigh is equally amazing, plus we share the same Alma Mater of Marymount Manhattan College.
First, the newly refurbished Hudson Theatre is fantastic. So beautiful and clean! You don’t have to use the dumb sippy cups for your drinks; you can enjoy your adult beverage out of a real glass. Classy, right? My non-musical loving husband was a big fan of that. Second, the amount of leg room per seat is insane. So comfortable. The Hudson could probably sell out a one man show starring Carrot Top because theater goers were so impressed.
For those of you that are not familiar with the show by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, it was inspired by the painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by George Seurat. It’s an interesting musical as it follows the complex and intense relationship between Dot and George in Act 1 (in the 1890's), and then jumps to 1984 in Act 2; focusing on George and Dot’s great grandson, also an artist named George. The show opens in Paris, France with George (Gyllenhaal) sketching his model and mistress, Dot (Ashford) as she tries her hardest to stay still and concentrate. Ashford’s smooth voice and animated nature was perfect for the opening song, ‘Sunday in the Park with George’. I seriously think she has the voice of an angel.
I was curious about Jake’s singing (we all know he has serious acting chops); he was incredible. Some of my favorite numbers were ‘Finishing the Hat’ and his duet with Penny Fuller (the Old Lady), called ‘Beautiful.’ Sondheim isn’t easy, but Jake nailed it. I loved his portrayal of George: he captured George's complicated nature, without making him completely void of human emotion. You could actually see the ongoing struggle he had with himself in every scene.
Another highlight was Annaleigh playing the role of Marie in Act 2 (the daughter of Dot and George). She was so hilarious as a southern old lady, I almost forgot she was in her 30’s. Her comedic timing was impeccable.
Hmmm…a weak spot? I wouldn’t even call this ‘weak’, though. I was anxiously waiting for ‘Move On’ to completely blow me away in Act 2, and I was slightly disappointed. While their acting was spot on, I wanted a little more belting from Annaleigh and Jake. To me, this is the ‘show-stopping’ number- I didn’t get that vocally. It was beautiful… I just wanted more ‘Bernadette and Mandy’!
Without giving anything away, the ending was especially moving. Under the direction of Sarna Lapine (niece of James Lapine), the ensemble simultaneously gestures to George with a bow, and I lost it- totally cried! Musical Director, Chris Fenwick (Fun Home) had a beautiful orchestra on stage and the finale (along with every other group number) was perfectly harmonized.
Sondheim fans- you will not be disappointed with this revival! You only have until April 23rd…run, don’t walk!