The brand-new Hudson Theatre officially opened Thursday night with a star-studded new production of Steven Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park With George." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
Stephen Sondheim is, for many, an acquired taste, and that most certainly applies to "Sunday In The Park With George," which he composed with bookwriter James Lapine. The Pulitzer Prize-winning musical is a beautiful if somewhat abstract riff on creativity. And if audiences find it aloof in spots, that's likely by design. The act of artistic creation requires unadorned truth and distance, qualities Sondheim shares with his subject, pointillist painter Georges Seurat. But no matter what one thinks of the show, it's pretty hard to find any fault with the performances, led by the uber-talented Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford.
Given Gyllenhaal's film stardom, who knew, amid all that screen talent, he had such gorgeous pipes? The man can sing, and the fact that he can sing Sondheim's challenging lyrics makes him quite an artist in his own right. Gyllenhaal paints a vivid portrait of the intensely dedicated and uncompromising Seurat, willing to sacrifice all for his art.
And that includes his muse Dot, a complex role impeccably shaded by the ever versatile Annaleigh Ashford. With her incomparable gifts, she can be playfully romantic, sardonically funny and a wounded puppy, all at the same time without ever sounding a false note.
And what luscious notes they are. Sondheim and Lapine's luminous collaboration focuses on the making of Seurat's masterpiece "A Sunday Afternoon On The Island of La Grande Jatte." The French painter, applying scientific techniques, was obsessed with color and light. In the process, he became emotionally and socially detached, and it cost him his relationship with Dot, but not before she bore his daughter Marie and moved to America.
I have no pictures of Act 2, which picks up 100 years later. It doesn't quite match the exquisite first act, but it features another George - Seurat's great-grandson, also an artist heavily reliant on science. The symmetry is obvious, but the undeniable genius of "Sunday In The Park" has more to do with poetry. It is a work about the ineffable light of inspiration.
"Sunday In The Park" won't appeal to everyone. But fans will not be disappointed. Director Sarna Lapine, employing state-of-the-art projections, delivers an immaculate production combining art, science and poetry in perfect harmony.