Sunday in the Park with George

September 24

November 11, 2012

in CST's Courtyard Theater

music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
book by James Lapine | directed by Gary Griffin

Critical Acclaim

    This time last year, Griffin knocked Follies halfway into Lake Michigan. Griffin’s Sunday in the Park is another world-class production, a deeply wrought piece of Chicago theater populated by the finest singers and further confirmation of Griffin’s chops as a distinguished Sondheim interpreter. His production of Pacific Overtures at this theater, years ago, made his national career, but I was struck Wednesday by how much Griffin’s Sondheim work has matured. He now does not need distinctive concepts to make his mark; he just innately knows how to give these works breath. The respect Griffin now enjoys in the Sondheim arena means he can attract formidable talent to Chicago, especially for manageable engagements. This Sunday is beholden to a formidable performance from Carmen Cusack, whose superb work dominates. Some Dot/Maries manage the coquettish sexuality of Dot, who is bored a lot, but flounder when it comes to asserting the moral authority of Marie, the unstinting older woman in Act 2. Cusack has, remarkably, mastered both. It’s a dazzling performance that gets better and better, but its zenith comes during the song “Children and Art” which I’ve never seen more movingly performed.

“Hats off to Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Sunday in the Park! The complete list of Sondheim musicals is great and glorious. But director Gary Griffin’s radiant, heart-wrenching Chicago Shakespeare Theater revival of Sunday in the Park reveals the special quality that sets this show apart from all others. For not only does it “bring order to the whole through design, composition, balance, light and harmony,” but it makes all those who experience it feel more fully alive. You can sense the wonder it triggers in the audience. And if they do not necessarily leave the theater happier, or less full of regrets, frustrations, jealousies and all the rest, they certainly leave feeling more whole, more alive, more connected. And of course connection—whether to another person, or to an artistic vision—is what this 1985 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical (devised with James Lapine, Sondheim’s invaluable collaborator) is all about. Highly recommended.

“A dazzling masterpiece under the expert direction of Gary Griffin...this execution is flawless. In the leads, Jason Danieley (George) and Carmen Cusack (Dot) have powerhouse passion individually and collectively. A charismatic Danieley plays it both cavalier and endearing. A spirited and determined Cusack inspires with her ability to belt out an emotional melody and shut down a relationship. Their duet “Move On” is unforgettably gorgeous. The entire ensemble is portrait perfect in this tribute to artistry.”

“Brilliant This is probably the one word that could sum up the new production of Sunday in the Park with George now onstage at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. Under the skillful eye of Director Gary Griffin ( whose name might be synonymous with Brilliance) this is by far the most sparking cast I have ever seen assembled to bring to life this wonderful musical that depicts the work by Georges Seurat, “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte”. With a book by James Lapine and music and lyrics by none other than Stephen Sondheim, this is a masterpiece about a masterpiece. This was a revolutionary work of art and in this sterling production, we the audience get to watch the making of the painting and the inspiration behind it. Even some of those who are not “into” Sondheim will find themselves standing at the end of this production, applauding for minutes longer than they might do on a normal day.”

“Rare is the theatrical experience that is so haunting and so achingly beautiful that your soul actually feels caressed and nurtured. The transcendent production at hand is Chicago Shakespeare's revival of Sondheim and Lapine's 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Sunday in the Park with George… There are many astounding attributes in this production, but its greatest achievement is that Act II no longer feels like the bastard child of Act I. With an assured hand, director Gary Griffin centers on the humanity of the characters, guiding his cast into a realm of authenticity rarely seen in any musical; this genuineness only serves to highlight the universal truths in Sondheim's lyrics. As such, the show grabs a hold of the audience's communal heart and quietly pulls it forward toward the show's magnificent perspectives on life and art, turning this into a five-hanky affair. This truly is the theatrical event of this or any other season. ”

“ Jason Danieley’s Seurat is an artist at an intense remove from his world, blessed with new ways of seeing the light and colors around him but cripplingly unable to engage emotionally…Danieley makes Seurat’s artistic distance vivid and moving in his rendition of the first act’s most striking number, “Finishing the Hat.”…The terrific lead performances are strongly supported by distinctive turns from the secondary players, particularly Ora Jones, Heidi Kettenring and Derek Hasenstab. Astonishing projection designs by Mike Tutaj help Griffin’s production achieve a forceful resonance between the two Georges’ creative compulsions, bridging the interior and exterior lives of the artists at this work’s heart.”

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