To paraphrase Stephen Sondheim, ‘There are worse things than sitting in the Barclay watching ‘Sunday.” In fact, there’s almost nothing better.
The Claire Trevor School of the Arts’ production of Sondheim’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical ‘Sunday in the Park With George’ is a resounding triumph on every level. Director Eli Simon, musical director Dennis Castellano, and everyone else involved have collaborated to give one of the great American musicals the tour-de-force treatment it deserves.
This is no easy task, considering the material. As a composer, Sondheim is known for his challenging melodic lines and rhythmic complexity; as a lyricist, his work demands perfection, with a rapid-fire, one-syllable-per-note style that leaves no room for error. Put them together and you have a seamless melding of words and music that’s as remarkable to listen to as it is devilishly hard to perform.
Fortunately, dramatic leads Jeffrey Benson Parker and Karin Hendricks are more than up to the task, and clearly revel in taking on the challenges of their roles. It’s hard to put ‘Sunday’ on stage without inviting comparison to the original Broadway production starring Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters. Benson Parker and Hendricks may still be in college, but both are possessed of impressive vocal talent. What really makes the production come alive, though, is their effortless ability to immerse themselves in their characters and their engaging chemistry on stage.
The show’s two acts tell different yet strongly connected stories of artistic creation, and have the entire cast doing double-duty (at least) in multiple roles. The show opens in 1884 Paris, and concerns the painter Georges Seurat and the odd competition that springs up between his lover and model Dot and his now-famous masterpiece ‘Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.’ Seurat is portrayed as a well-intentioned obsessive, whose overpowering drive to create alienates everyone around him