Sunday in the Park with George Review - ★★★★★

Performance Review

Clearly produced with great affection, this production is one of startling emotional warmth and depth, executed with admirable delicacy.

Amber Ash

Art isn’t easy? Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Sunday in the Park with George is certainly a challenge, but director Dylan Evans and his excellent cast proved themselves to be up to the job in last week’s main show at the ADC. At first glance a mere musical homage to the artist-genius, the musical imagines the life and legacy of pointillist painter Georges Seurat, and his difficult relationships with those around him. Tackling grand ideas about art and the artist, this production is never lacking in sensitivity as it simultaneously dives into the more everyday (but no less complex) themes of desire, memory and human connection.

Almost scientifically technical in places, the score has the potential to be either a masterpiece or a disaster. Fortunately, Annie Stedman puts us at instant ease as George’s fictional lover, Dot. Unfazed by the opening tongue-twister of a song, she carries off the music with humour and feeling. She is no less compelling in Act 2 as Dot’s now-elderly daughter Marie, to whom she brings a spirit tinged with the bittersweet quality of a woman reaching for a father she never really knew. Her energy is matched by Eoin McCaul, whose George of Act 1 has a dreaminess that sets him apart from Mandy Patinkin’s classic rendition of the role. His passion is soft and pensive, saving him from becoming an obnoxious caricature of the mythical and misunderstood artist. It is in Act 2, though, that he really shows off his range as Seurat’s more jaded and pragmatic sculptor-grandson. Together the pair bring complexity to their relationships and imbue an often badly-received second act with humour and humanity.

But the leads form only part of the picture – one given full colour and light by an impressive ensemble of supporting actors who not only perform the tricky Sondheim harmonies and rhythms with ease (‘Sunday’ and ‘Putting it Together’ are particularly tight) but also convincingly pull off the character doubling as the play leaps across a century and relocates to New York. Charis Lister, whose costume let down her otherwise convincing Old Lady of the first act (if only in comparison to the greater attention paid to Stedman’s Marie), is unrecognisable as the smooth and condescending art critic, Blair Daniels, of Act 2. Isaac Jackson undergoes a similar transformation from the quasi-stock villain Jules to a schmoozy Bob Greenberg, and Hugo Gregg’s Dennis has a lovely comic timing.

Aside from some slightly bizarrely scaled dog cut-outs, Tungsten Tang’s set design is sleek and impressionistic and given a soft aura by Chris Wordsworth’s generally understated lighting. A collection of green disks is enough to suggest the island of La Grande Jatte and transports the audience seamlessly and straightforwardly into George’s pointillist world. In fantastic contrast, the comically crude construction of George’s Chromulume #7 in Act 2 is accompanied by disco-esque lights that are as strangely compelling as they are crass. Delightfully silly in many ways, this staging complements a second act that challenges our perception of art and artistic value in an increasingly mediatised and commercial society. Let down only by the occasional lag in timing that kept visual jokes from reaching their fullest potential (the removal of a tree, the shifting colours of the light), the production quality is excellent.

Clearly produced with great affection, this production is one of startling emotional warmth and depth, executed with admirable delicacy. I look forward to seeing what this company goes on to do next. 5 stars.


© Copyright 2024 Cambridge Creatives

Site design by

Emily Shen