“When I first hear a song sung, I’m worried that I’m going to be embarrassed by what I wrote,” said Stephen Sondheim while Sunday in the Park with George was in previews. “So I try to postpone the moment.” The quote is endearing, and more than a little absurd, coming from the patron saint of musical theatre—but in early 1984, Sondheim hadn’t quite hit apotheosis. His previous musical, Merrily We Roll Along, had closed on Broadway after a 16-performance run.
Then salvation came—in the form of a Pointillist masterpiece. In June 1982, Sondheim began a tentative collaboration with James Lapine, a young Off-Broadway playwright. In search of a subject, they began rifling through photographs and paintings, one of which was Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
The 1884 painting looked like a stage set, Lapine observed, but was missing the main character. “Who?” asked Sondheim. “The artist,” said Lapine. He laid tracing paper over La Grande Jatte and drew a constellation of arrows, each one pointing to an anonymous figure on the riverbank. “Mother?” he wrote. “Mistress? Butler?” It was like an existential game of Clue, a whodunit in which the answer was Georges Seurat.
But who was Seurat? In their research, Sondheim and Lapine were able to gather a few crumbs about the notoriously secretive painter: Seurat worked at night, kept mum unless asked about his experiments with color, and had apparently gone to great lengths to prevent his mother from learning of the existence of his mistress Madeleine Knobloch, a model who appears in Seurat’s Young Woman Powdering Herself and bore him two children (both died in infancy). “When you have a character like that,” said Sondheim, “you can fill him out in any way you want.”
Sondheim delayed filling him in for as long as possible. To evoke the “rhythmic verve” of Seurat’s technique, he decided to write a shimmering, “Brittenesque” score; for a time, he toyed with the idea of assigning every white piano key a color on Seurat’s palette and “juxtaposing them the way he did in his painting, using the black keys to modify them the way Seurat used black and white.” Lapine wrote a draft of the first act, including potential song cues (“The dogs sing here”), as well as a series of made-to-order monologues so that Sondheim could “raid” them for lyric ideas. By the time actors gathered for a reading of the first act, Sondheim had only completed the opening chords of the score. “I was really dubious,” Lapine recalled. “I thought, Why isn’t he writing?”
Bernadette Peters agreed to play Dot on the basis of one song and 30 pages of the first act; when rehearsals began for the Off-Broadway workshop in the summer of 1983, no music had been written for the second act. Curiously, this happened to be Sondheim’s ideal writing process. “I really don’t want to write the score until the show is cast and in rehearsal,” he once said. “Then I wouldn’t make any mistakes. Silly as it sounds, it’s true, because by then you know the qualities of the people that you’re writing for.”
On Sunday, he had his wish—and once the actors adjusted to it, their time at Playwrights Horizons took on a Scheherazade sense of wonder. In one version of the show, all the figures in the painting got solos. Another draft featured a lengthy detour to the 1950s, with a child actor playing the pre-Chromolume George. “This is a show that Steve and James were writing as we were doing it,” recalled Peters. “Every day we’d wait to see if a song would appear. I remember how exciting it was when ‘Finishing the Hat’ came in.” By that point, Sunday had already begun performances, and the creators were making nightly curtain speeches acknowledging the play’s unfinished nature.
One afternoon, Sondheim told Mandy Patinkin that he’d written a new song for George. In search of an open piano, they left Playwrights Horizons and crossed the street to the basement of the West Bank Café. Sondheim sat down at the piano and began to play. “He was very nervous,” Patinkin said. “When he finished playing it and singing it, he went from a dry shirt to just sopping wet underarms, right in the chest bones—just drenched. He was worried about something. And we were in tears, all of us.” Patinkin performed “Finishing the Hat” that night, using his sketchpad as a crib sheet.
The song has haunted artists ever since—and not just those who make musicals. As a teenager, Stephen Colbert read the lyrics of “Finishing the Hat” aloud to his mother “to try to explain why I wanted to be an artist.” Joss Whedon, the man behind pop-culture juggernauts like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Avengers, has said of the song, “That’s my experience of being an artist: what I would say, but better than I could ever say it.”
“It’s one of the few songs that actually captures what it’s like to have a blank page and then put something down—the rush of it, the burden of it, and what it costs people,” says Jeanine Tesori. The Tony Award-winning composer of Fun Home, Violet, and Caroline, or Change was an intern at Playwrights Horizons during the original Sunday workshop. “It was the first thing I did after graduating from school,” she says. “My job was to get on the M49 bus and bring new songs by hand to [music director] Paul Gemignani; I would sit there with the manila envelope on my lap. And I never looked.”
Instead, Tesori gelled lights, went on coffee runs, and watched as, bit by bit, a masterpiece came into being. (Even after Sunday transferred to Broadway, the score kept changing; “Lesson #8” was smuggled into the show three days before the critics came.) For Tesori, Sunday in the Park with George was “seminal. I saw it 13 times, through all the changes, and it really did make me think, Maybe there is a place in this industry for me.”
The notion of reviving the show at City Center occurred to her in the spring of 2015, when she began working with Jake Gyllenhaal on the Encores! Off-Center production of Little Shop of Horrors. Tesori had coaxed Gyllenhaal to star in his first musical by delivering a potted plant to his dressing room during the Broadway run of Constellations. The plant was strewn with bloody Barbie-doll parts, and a note tucked into the soil read, “JUST DO IT.”
“I thought he would say no,” Tesori says, “but it turns out that he really loves to sing.” During their first Little Shop session, Tesori was struck by the fact that Gyllenhaal’s “attention to detail, and his desire to work endlessly, matched mine. We could sit with the score and go for three hours.” (As Dot says of George, “He could look forever.”) One day, over kale salad and the sheet music for “Mushnik and Son,” Tesori mentioned Sunday in the Park with George. “I said, ‘That would be a great role for you someday.’ Then it just came together in his schedule that we could do it now, at City Center.”
The benefit concerts mark Tesori’s first project in her new role as City Center’s artistic advisor. Sunday in the Park with George is being performed with Michael Starobin’s original orchestrations, but the concerts differ from the original production in one crucial sense: the audience has evolved. The Broadway production opened May 2, 1984, and although it received a few positive reviews—as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama—the show was mostly met with bewilderment and hostility. Preview audiences walked out in droves, the Daily Newswrote that the musical “doesn’t bear looking at or listening to for very long,” and the second act was so polarizing that The Wall Street Journal suggested it be scrapped altogether. (Sondheim’s response: “Without the second half, the show’s a stunt.”)
The New York Times’ Frank Rich was virtually alone in giving the show a rave. “Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine demand that an audience radically change its whole way of looking at the Broadway musical,” he wrote. With Sunday, and the more commercially-minded Into the Woods, they did just that. The musicals are like two yolks from the same sublime egg: in both shows, each song rises from the harmonic ashes of the preceding song; the second acts complicate, contradict, and devour the lessons of the first; and Bernadette Peters materializes as a ghost just in time for the 11 o’clock number. These formal innovations, so galling to contemporary critics, feel inevitable today.
Perhaps that’s because a generation of theatregoers came of age watching Sunday and Woods. Both musicals were preserved on videotape, and in the 1980s and 1990s, countless children followed the trail of breadcrumbs from Woods to Sunday. A startlingly wide range of artists grew up loving the show: “Difficult People” creator Julie Klausner began obsessively re-watching the Sunday videotape at age nine, and it became Josh Groban’s “all-time favorite musical” at age ten. Today, six-year-olds sing “Finishing the Hat” and post their performances on YouTube.
“There’s so much there that you can take in as a kid,” said Groban recently—and it’s true. To children, Sunday in the Park with George isn’t a lofty, inaccessible art piece that “feels icy to the touch,” as New Yorkmagazine claimed in 1984. It’s the story of a boy who loves to draw and a girl who is learning to read. As Sondheim waggishly put it, the plot of Sunday is simple: “Boy loves girl. Boy loves art. Boy loses girl. Boy gets both girl and art 100 years later.”
Matt Weinstock writes for the publications at New York City Center.
For the Desperate Housewives episode, see Sunday in the Park with George (Desperate Housewives).
Sunday in the Park with George is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. It was inspired by the Frenchpointillist painter Georges Seurat's painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. The plot revolves around George, a fictionalized version of Seurat, who immerses himself deeply in painting his masterpiece, and his great-grandson (also named George), a conflicted and cynical contemporary artist. The Broadway production opened in 1984.
The musical won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, two Tony Awards for design (and a nomination for Best Musical), numerous Drama Desk Awards, the 1991 Olivier Award for Best Musical and the 2007 Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production. It has enjoyed several major revivals, including the 2005-06 UK production first presented at the Menier Chocolate Factory and its subsequent 2008 Broadway transfer.
- Act I
In 1884, Georges Seurat, known as George in the musical, is sketching studies for his painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. He announces to the audience: "White, a blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole, through design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony." He conjures up the painting's setting, a small suburban park on an island, and retains some control of his surroundings as he draws them. His longtime mistress, Dot, models for him, despite her frustration at having to get up early on a Sunday ("Sunday in the Park with George"). More park regulars begin to arrive: a quarrelsome Old Lady and her Nurse discuss how Paris is changing to accommodate a tower for the International Exposition, but the Nurse is more interested in a German coachman, Franz. The quiet of the park is interrupted by a group of rude bathers. George freezes them with a gesture, making them the subjects of his first painting, Bathers at Asnières. The setting abruptly changes to a gallery where the painting is on display. Jules (a more successful artist friend of George's) and his wife Yvonne think George's work has "No Life." Back on the island, Jules and Yvonne have a short discussion with George and depart. They take their coachman Franz with them, interrupting his rendezvous with the Nurse. Dot, who has grown tired of standing still in the early morning sunlight, leaves the park mollified after George promises to take her to the Follies. George approaches the Old Lady, revealed to be his mother, and asks to draw her, but she bluntly refuses.
In his studio George works on his painting obsessively while Dot prepares for their date and fantasizes about being a Follies girl ("Color and Light"). When George briefly stops painting to clean his brushes, he and Dot reflect on how fascinated they are by each other. Dot is ready to leave, but George chooses to continue painting instead, greatly upsetting her.
In the park on a Sunday some time later, George sketches a disgruntled Boatman to the disapproval of an observing Jules. Dot enters on the arm of Louis, a baker. Two chatting shopgirls, both named Celeste, notice Dot with a new man ("Gossip"). When Jules and Yvonne's daughter Louise attempts to pet the Boatman's dog, he shouts at her, then lashes out at George and storms off. George and Dot have a strained conversation as she works on the grammar book she is using to teach herself how to read and write. As Jules and Yvonne mock the unconventional nature of George's art, they discuss an initiative to have his work included in the next group show, which they both protest. George sketches two dogs while whimsically trying to imagine the world from their perspective, describing their relief to be free of their routines on Sunday ("The Day Off"). As the day goes on, George quietly sketches denizens of the park: The two Celestes try to attract the attention of a pair of Soldiers, fighting over which will get the more handsome of the two; the Nurse hides from the Old Lady and attempts to attract Franz's attention; Franz and his wife Frieda argue with Louise and each other; a pair of wealthy American tourists pass by, hating everything about Paris but the pastries, and plan to return home with a baker in tow; Jules returns to further lecture George on his shortcomings as an artist, receiving in response an invitation to see his new painting; the Boatman reappears to rebuke artists' condescending attitude. Dot sees George, but he slips away before she can speak to him, and in retaliation she describes her satisfying new life with Louis. She clearly misses and loves George, but Louis loves, respects and needs her in a way George cannot, and she has made her choice ("Everybody Loves Louis").
As the park empties for the evening, George returns. He misses Dot and laments that his art has alienated him from those important to him, but resigns himself to the likelihood that creative fulfillment may always take precedence for him over personal happiness ("Finishing the Hat").
Time has passed, and a heavily pregnant Dot visits George's studio. She asks for a painting George made of her, but he refuses. Jules and Yvonne come to the studio to see George's nearly finished painting. While Jules goes with George to see the painting, Yvonne and Dot hold a wary conversation. They realize they have both felt neglected by an artist, their mutual dislike fades, and they discuss the difficulties of trying to maintain a romantic relationship with an artist. Meanwhile, Jules is puzzled by George's new technique and concerned that his obsession with his work is alienating him from his fellow artists and collectors alike. He refuses to support the work. Jules and Yvonne leave, and George, having forgotten Dot was there, goes back to work. Dot reveals the real reason for her visit: despite the obvious fact that George fathered her unborn child, she and Louis are getting married and leaving for America. George angrily retreats behind his canvas, and she begs him to react, in some way, to her news. They argue bitterly about their failed relationship, and Dot concludes sadly that while George may be capable of self-fulfillment, she is not, and they must part ("We Do Not Belong Together").
In the park the Old Lady finally agrees to sit for George, losing herself in fond memories of his childhood that George repeatedly disputes. She bemoans Paris's changing skyline, and he encourages her to see the beauty in the world as it is, rather than how it has been ("Beautiful"). The American Tourists arrive with Louis and Dot, who holds her newborn daughter, Marie. George refuses to acknowledge her or his child, able to offer only a feeble apology as Dot departs sadly.
The park grows noisy: the Celestes and the Soldier argue over their respective breakups while Jules and Frieda sneak away to have a tryst. Louise informs Yvonne of her father's infidelity and a fight breaks out among Jules, Yvonne, Franz, and Frieda. The Celestes and the Soldier squabble noisily, and soon all the park-goers are fighting until the Old Lady shouts, "Remember, George!", and he stops them all with a gesture. George takes control of the subjects of his painting, who sing in harmony as he transforms them into the final tableau of his finished painting ("Sunday").
- Act II
As the curtain opens the characters – still in the tableau – complain about being stuck in the painting ("It's Hot Up Here"). The characters deliver short eulogies for George, who died suddenly at 31.
The action fast-forwards a century to 1984. George and Dot's great-grandson, also an artist named George, is at a museum unveiling his latest work, a reflection on Seurat's painting in the form of a light machine called "Chromolume #7". George presents the work, grounding its connection to the painting by inviting his 98-year-old grandmother, Marie, to help him present the work. Marie shares her family history, describing how her mother, Dot, informed her on her deathbed that she was Seurat's daughter. George is skeptical of that bit of family lore, but Marie insists that the notes in Dot's grammar book, which mention George, are proof. After a brief technical failure, the Chromolume is unveiled.
At the reception, various patrons and curators congratulate George on his work while George flits among them, commenting on the difficulties of producing modern art ("Putting It Together"). Like his great-grandfather, he conjures his surroundings, allowing himself to hold multiple conversations at once. The only voice he finds he cannot ignore is that of an art critic who advises him that he is repeating himself and wasting his gifts. After the museum's patrons have left for dinner, Marie speaks to her mother's image in the painting, worrying about George. When he arrives to take her home, she tells him about her mother, attempting to pass on a message about the legacy we leave behind ("Children and Art"). She dozes off and George, alone with the painting, realizes he is lacking connection.
Weeks later, Marie has died and George has been invited by the French government to do a presentation of the Chromolume on the island the painting depicts. There George reveals to his friend Dennis that he has turned down his next commission. Feeling adrift and unsure, George reads from a book he inherited from his grandmother – the same one Dot used to learn to read – and ponders the similarities between himself and his great-grandfather ("Lesson #8"). A vision of Dot appears and greets George, whom she addresses as if he were the George she knew. He confides his doubts to her and she tells him to stop worrying about whether his choices are right and simply make them ("Move On"). George finds some words written in the back of the book – the words George often muttered while he worked. As George reads them aloud the characters from the painting fill the stage and recreate their tableau ("Sunday"). As they leave and the stage resembles a blank canvas, George reads: "White: a blank page or canvas. His favorite – so many possibilities."
Following the failure and scathing critical reception of Merrily We Roll Along in 1981 (it closed after 16 performances), Sondheim announced his intention to quit musical theatre. Lapine persuaded him to return to the theatrical world after the two were inspired by A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. They spent several days at the Art Institute of Chicago studying the painting. Lapine noted that one major figure was missing from the canvas: the artist himself. This observation provided the springboard for Sunday and the production evolved into a meditation on art, emotional connection and community.
The musical fictionalizes Seurat's life. In fact neither of his children survived beyond infancy and he had no grandchildren. Seurat's common-law wife was Madeleine Knobloch, who gave birth to his two sons, one after his death. Unlike Dot, Knobloch was living with Seurat when he died, and did not emigrate to America. She died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 35.
Original Off-Broadway production
The show opened Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, starring Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters, in July 1983 and ran for 25 performances. Only the first act was performed and even that was still in development. The first act was fleshed out and work began on the second during that time and the complete two-act show was premièred during the last three performances. After seeing the show at Playwrights, composer Leonard Bernstein wrote to his friend Sondheim, calling the show "brilliant, deeply conceived, canny, magisterial and by far the most personal statement I've heard from you thus far. Bravo."Kelsey Grammer (Young Man on the Bank and Soldier), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Celeste #2) and Christine Baranski (Clarisse, who was later renamed Yvonne) were in the off-Broadway production but did not continue with the show to Broadway.
Original Broadway production
The musical transferred to the Booth Theatre on Broadway on May 2, 1984. The second act was finalized and the show was "frozen" only a few days before the opening.
Lapine directed and Patinkin and Peters starred, with scenic design by Tony Straiges, costume design by Patricia Zipprodt and Ann Hould-Ward, and lighting by Richard Nelson.
Sunday opened on Broadway to mixed critical responses. The New York Times theatre critic Frank Rich wrote: "I do know... that Mr. Sondheim and Mr. Lapine have created an audacious, haunting and, in its own intensely personal way, touching work. Even when it fails – as it does on occasion – Sunday in the Park is setting the stage for even more sustained theatrical innovations yet to come." The musical enjoyed a healthy box office, though the show would ultimately lose money; it closed on October 13, 1985, after 604 performances and 35 previews.
Although it was considered a brilliant artistic achievement for Sondheim and nominated for ten Tony Awards, the show won only two, both for design. (The major winner of the night was Jerry Herman's La Cage aux Folles. In his acceptance speech Herman noted that the "simple, hummable tune" was still alive on Broadway, a remark some perceived as criticism of Sondheim's pointillistic score. Herman has since denied that that was his intention.) Sunday won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Musical and Sondheim and Lapine were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.Sunday is one of only nine musicals to win a Pulitzer.
On May 15, 1994, the original cast of Sunday in the Park with George returned to Broadway for a tenth anniversary concert, which was also a benefit for "Friends in Deed".
Original London production
The first London production opened at the Royal National Theatre on March 15, 1990, and ran for 117 performances, with Philip Quast as George and Maria Friedman as Dot. The production was nominated for six Laurence Olivier Awards, beating Into the Woods, another collaboration between Lapine and Sondheim, to win Best New Musical (1991). Quast won the award for Best Actor in a Musical.
2005 London revival
The show's first revival was presented at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London, opening on November 14, 2005, and closing on March 17, 2006. The score was radically reorchestrated by Jason Carr and starred Daniel Evans and Anna-Jane Casey, with direction by Sam Buntrock. The production transferred to the Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End, opening on May 23, 2006, and closing on September 2, 2006. Jenna Russell replaced the unavailable Casey. The revival received six Olivier Award nominations overall, and won five in total including Outstanding Musical Production, Best Actor in a Musical and Best Actress in a Musical.
2008 Broadway revival
The 2005 London production transferred to Broadway in 2008, where it was produced by Roundabout Theatre Company and Studio 54. As a limited engagement, previews started on January 25, 2008, with an opening on February 21, 2008, running through June 29 (making this the 3rd extension).
Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell (who starred in the 2005-6 London production) reprised their roles with Sam Buntrock directing. The cast included Michael Cumpsty (Jules/Bob), Jessica Molaskey (Yvonne/Naomi), Ed Dixon (Mr./Charles Redmond), Mary Beth Peil (Old Lady/Blair), Alexander Gemignani (Boatman/Dennis), and David Turner (Franz/Lee Randolph).
Reviewers praised the script and score as well as the innovative design and the entire cast. Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times, "The great gift of this production, first staged in London two years ago, is its quiet insistence that looking is the art by which all people shape their lives. ...a familiar show shimmers with a new humanity and clarity that make theatergoers see it with virgin eyes. And while Sunday remains a lopsided piece — pairing a near-perfect, self-contained first act with a lumpier, less assured second half — this production goes further than any I’ve seen in justifying the second act’s existence." As described in The New York Times, "In his [Buntrock's] intimate production, live actors talk to projections, scenery darkens as day turns into night, and animation seamlessly blends into the background...In this new version, thanks to 3-D animation, the painting, currently the crown jewel of the Art Institute of Chicago, slowly comes together onstage. A sketch emerges, then color is added, and the rest gradually comes into focus, piece by piece."
The Broadway production received five Outer Critics Circle Award nominations, three Drama League Award nominations and seven Drama Desk Award nominations including Outstanding Revival of a Musical, Outstanding Actor and Actress in a Musical and Outstanding Director of a Musical. Russell and Evans also received Tony Award nominations for their performances. At the Tony Awards, Russell and Evans performed the song "Move On."
2017 Broadway revival
A limited-run revival was presented on Broadway at the Hudson Theatre, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as George and Annaleigh Ashford as Dot/Marie. Previews began on February 11, 2017, and the production, which opened on February 23 to glowing reviews, was scheduled to run until April 23. The production was based on the October 2016 concert version, which also starred Gyllenhaal and Ashford. It featured Brooks Ashmanskas (Mr./Charles), Phillip Boykin (Boatman/Lee), Claybourne Elder (Soldier/Alex), Liz McCartney (Mrs./Harriet), Ruthie Ann Miles (Frieda/Betty), David Turner (Franz/Dennis), Jordan Gelber (Louis/Billy), Erin Davie (Yvonne/Naomi), Penny Fuller (Old Lady/Blair), and Robert Sean Leonard (Jules/Bob). The producers withdrew this production from Tony Award consideration for the 2016-17 season. David Turner is the only actor to have appeared on Broadway in two different productions of Sunday.
As part of the Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration, the musical was presented in the Eisenhower Theatre from May 31, 2002, to June 28, 2002. Directed by Eric D. Schaeffer, the cast featured Raúl Esparza and Melissa Errico.
This play is of special significance for Chicago in that Seurat's masterpiece, the backdrop of the play, hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago. The Chicago Shakespeare Theater presented the musical in 2002, directed by Gary Griffin in the more intimate, 200 seat, Upstairs Theater. In September 2012, Griffin returned to direct the play in the larger downstairs Courtyard Theater. Notable in this production is the fact that in the final scene of the play, all of the cast appear in white costumes; the music for the production is supplied by a live orchestra seated above and to the rear of the actors where they can be seen by the audience. Griffin also chose to have as background for the performance a full-stage reproduction of Seurat's work which changed in both content and color to match certain moments in the play. The lead roles were played by Jason Danieley as George, Carmen Cusack as Dot, and Linda Stephens as the Old Lady.
The Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois, presented a semi-staged production for three shows from September 3 to 4, 2004, with Michael Cerveris, Audra McDonald, Patti LuPone and direction by Lonny Price.New Line Theatre in St. Louis produced the show in 2004.
The team responsible for the London revival mounted a production in April 2009 at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, featuring Hugh Panaro, Billie Wildrick, Patti Cohenour, Anne Allgood, Allen Fitzpatrick and Carol Swarbrick.
The Dutch production company M-Lab presented a small-scale production of the musical from June 9 through July 3, 2010.
From April 15 through 25, 2013, the musical was performed in the English language at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, directed by Lee Blakeley featuring the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France led by David Charles Abell. George was played by Julian Ovenden. For this occasion, Michael Starobin reworked his musical arrangements, which were originally tailored to an 11-piece chamber orchestra, to match a full orchestra. The production was taped for radio and TV and has been frequently broadcast in the French Mezzo HD channel which usually only rebroadcasts in-house productions of classical music, opera and jazz that were first presented live on its sister channel Mezzo Live HD.
In July 2013, Victorian Opera staged an acclaimed production in Melbourne, Australia, starring Alexander Lewis as Georges and Christina O'Neill as Dot. It was directed by Stuart Maunder and conducted by Phoebe Briggs. 11 members from the Orchestra Victoria performed the score with Michael Starobin's original orchestrations. Audience members were required to wear 3-D glasses to view the Chromolume in Act 2.
The show was performed in a four-performance concert version as part of New York City Center's 2016 Gala on October 24–26, 2016. Jake Gyllenhaal starred as George opposite Annaleigh Ashford as Dot/Marie.
The museum guests of act II are played by the same actors who appear as the park-goers in act I. Traditionally, Dot and Marie are played by the same actress.
Original casts of major productions
- 1984 Broadway production
- Boatman / Charles Redmond - William Parry
- Man Lying on Bank / Louis / Billy Webster - Cris Groenendaal
- Young Man on Bank / Frieda / Betty - Nancy Opel
- Louise / A Boy - Danielle Ferland
- Man with Bicycle / Museum Assistant - John Jellison
- Mr. / Lee Randolph - Kurt Knudson
- Woman with Baby Carriage / Photographer - Sue Anne Gershenson
- Little Girl - Michele Rigan
- 1990 West End production
- Boatman / Lee Randolph - Michael Atwell
- Louis / Chromolume Performer - Aneirin Huws
- Frieda / Elaine - Di Botcher
- Louise - Naomi Kerbel/Ann Gosling
- Mrs. / Billie Webster - Vivienne Martin
- Mr. / Charles Remond - Matt Zimmerman
- Man Playing the Horn / Chromolume Performer - Vivienne Martin
- Woman Looking for a Glove / Chromolume Performer - Ellen van Schuylenburch
- Dancing Girl - Antonia Boyd/Emily Sault
- A Waitress - Buffy Davis
- A Photographer - Simon Fielder
- Party Guests - Stephen Hanley, Erika Vincent
- Small Boy - Kei Charles/Samuel Woodward Small
- Boy Bathers - Christopher Line, Marc Bellamy, Marco Williamson, James Nyman
- 2006 London production
- Boatman / Dennis - Alasdair Harvey
- Mr. / Charles Redmond - Mark McKerracher
- Louis / Billy Webster - Ian McLarnon
- Frieda / Betty - Anna Lowe
- Louise - Lauren Calpin / Georgina Hendry / Natalie Paris
- 2008 Broadway Revival
- Boatman / Dennis - Alexander Gemignani
- Mr. / Charles Redmond - Ed Dixon
- Louis / Billy Webster - Drew McVety
- Frieda / Betty - Stacie Morgain Lewis
- Louise - Kelsey Fowler, Alison Horowitz
- 2016 City Center Concert
- 2017 Broadway Revival
Television and video
Sunday in the Park with George was taped on October 21–25, 1985 at the Booth Theatre with most of the original Broadway cast. It was broadcast on American television on February 18, 1986 on Showtime and on June 16, 1986 on Public Television's American Playhouse. (Bernadette Peters, who was performing in Song and Dance at the time of the taping, was given time off from that play in order to be able to tape this production.) This video was released on VHS by Warner Home Video on April 1, 1992; the DVD and laserdisc was released by Image Entertainment on March 23, 1999. The DVD includes full-length commentary from Stephen Sondheim, James Lapine, Mandy Patinkin, and Bernadette Peters.
An audio registration of the 2013 Paris production at the Théâtre du Châtelet was broadcast on Radio France, a video registration on TV channel Mezzo TV.
A number of Desperate Housewives episodes take their names from songs or lyrics from the musical. These are episodes 1.11 - "Move On," 1.21 - "Sunday in the Park with George," 2.7 - "Color and Light," 3.20 - "Gossip", 4.5 - "Art Isn't Easy," 4.11 - "A Vision's Just a Vision," 5.10 - "Sunday," 5.14 - "Chromolume No. 7," 8.5 - "The Art of Making Art," 8.9 - "Putting it Together," and 8.23 - "Finishing the Hat".
The 1984 original Broadway cast recording was released by RCA in 1984. The remastered recording was released on March 20, 2007 (ASIN: B0009A40KW). The recording, produced by Thomas Z. Shepard, won the 1984 Grammy Award for Best Original Cast Show Album.
The 2006 London cast recording (with the cast of the 2005 revival) was released by PS Classics (2 disc set) on May 30, 2006 (ASIN: B000EZ9048). This is the most complete recording of the score to date. It contains a bonus track – the original, full version of "The One on the Left" (of which only a fraction survives in the final show) performed by Colley, Ellis and Hammarlund.
A cast recording was released for the Broadway revival in fall 2017 by Warner Music Group.
Awards and nominations
Original Broadway production
Original London production
2005 London revival
2008 Broadway revival
- ^Sherman, Stuart. "A Scholar's Perspective", Chicagoshakes.com, accessed December 15, 2016
- ^Zadan, Craig. Sondheim & Co., 1986, p. 295 ISBN 0-06-015649-X
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