Pasadena Playhouse continues its six-month-long celebration of all things Sondheim with its first main stage production of one of the beloved composer’s classics: “Sunday in the Park with George.”
Directed by Sarna Lapine, who helmed the recent Broadway revival, the production boasts extraordinary talent on stage and behind-the-scenes worthy of the Broadway stage.
For the uninformed, the story of “Sunday” centers on George Seurat (Graham Phillips of CW’s “Riverdale” and Broadway’s “13”), the moody painter of the now classic piece “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” As he creates the piece, by either having people he knows pose for him or by observing people in the park itself, he exposes his fears and obsessions while trying to navigate a relationship with a woman named Dot (Krystina Alabado of Broadway’s “Mean Girls”) who is often one of his subjects. Things get messy, of course, and when the painting is finished, it is not received very well.
The second Act thrusts us forward three generations to George (also played by Phillips), who is presenting his own artwork – a lighting installation that is as confusingly received as his great-grandfather’s artwork. He is joined by his Grandmother Marie (also played by Alabado), who tries to convince everyone she is not only in the painting but that her father is, in fact, the late George Seurat.
The cast of characters in Sondheim’s masterpiece are colorful, and the actors who bring them to life in this beautiful production are excellent. Standouts include Liz Larsen as the Old Lady in the park, Jimmy Smagula, and Alexandra Melrose as Mr. and Mrs., and Jason Michael Snow as Fraz/Dennis.
That said, choosing standouts in a uniformly terrific cast is hard. Yet the show hinges on the complicated character of George and the sass and understated regality of Dot/Marie. Both actors bring their characters to vibrant life with beautiful characterizations and masterful voices.
Truth be told, I’m not a huge Sondheim fan, so I was curious if I would even take to this production. I’m happy to say that not only was I thoroughly entertained and moved, but this production might make me go back and take a second look at the icon’s catalogue.