Joan Marcus
Melissa Rose Bernardo
April 10, 2008 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Sunday in the Park with George (2008)

type
Stage
Current Status
In Season
run date
01/25/08
performer
David Evans, Jenna Russell
director
Sam Buntrock
author
James Lapine, Stephen Sondheim

We gave it a B+

To take a lyric from another Stephen Sondheim musical being revived this year, Gypsy: ”You gotta get a gimmick if you wanna get a hand.” In reimagining Sunday in the Park with George, Sondheim’s fantastical portrait of the artist Georges Seurat, director Sam Buntrock got CGI. Projections, not simply colored backdrops, simulate the pointillist painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884 from rudimentary dots to framed finished product. Characters represented in the 1984 Broadway production by cardboard-like cutouts — e.g., Fifi the lapdog — have become animated. And when Seurat (Daniel Evans) erases something from his sketch pad, a smudgy charcoal tree vanishes from the stage. Gasp. Applause.

But a computer-generated canine doesn’t meld with the parasols and bustles of 1880s France. (The wizardry works better in the 1980s-set Act 2, which focuses on Seurat’s fictional great-grandson George, a sculptor, also played by Evans.) Ultimately, the most wow-worthy moments in this luminous revival are the most low-tech, and largely owing to Sondheim’s impressionistic score: the dissonant title song, where we meet Seurat’s mistress-model Dot (a radiant Jenna Russell); the blues-tinged ”Children and Art,” gorgeously sung by Russell as the 98-year-old daughter of Seurat; the rapturous Ravel-esque love duet ”Move On,” which conflates all the show’s musical themes.

There is one scene where the digital gimmickry blends in beautifully: Harmonizing on the shimmery choral anthem ”Sunday,” 13 actors (plus Fifi and friends) form a tableau vivant of Seurat’s masterpiece. A re-creation of the massive canvas — nearly 7 feet tall and 10 feet wide — appears, and the cast fades into the background. Well…gasp. (212-719-1300) B+

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