Sunday in the Park with George, written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine is a fictionalized account of the life of French Pointillist Painter George Seurat based on his painting “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”
The MusicalFare production is the second Sondheim musical featured at the theatre on the campus of Daemen College in Amherst.
Directed by Randall Kramer, the story centers on Seurat’s obsession with “design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony” to the exclusion of genuine human relationships.
George Seurat, played by Paschal Frisina III, meets the love of his life, Dot (Jenn Stafford), but their relationship is hampered by his inability to see past the tip of his paintbrush. While his art was best viewed by stepping back and looking at the whole, Seurat lacked the perspective to do so with the rest of his life.
Act One begins with a petulant Dot modeling for George and longing for his attention. Jules (Doug Crane), a rival painter, stops by frequently as do Jules household staff, Franz, (Louis Colaiacovo) and Frieda (Leah Russo), who provide much-needed comic relief along Jules’ bratty daughter, Louise, played by Anne Roaldi.
There is a marked difference between the first and second acts, the former set in the 1890s and the latter in the 1980s. “It was initially written as only the first act,” said Director Kramer, “Sondheim and Lapine tried to write act two quickly. The second act was drubbed by critics, while the first act was considered brilliant. But the whole show is what won the Pulitzer.”
While Seurat is known to have painted from life, the back stories are fiction. “The People that he sketched were actual people in the park, most of them lower class,” said Debbie Pappas, who played Jules’ wife, Yvonne. “Dot is the only real thing in his life. The others need the painting to exist,” added Frisina.
Chris Schenk’s set design is minimalist, but evocative of Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon.” He employs a painting-sized scrim that allows the artist to work while facing the audience. Costumes, by Loraine O’Donnell and Olivia Ebsary, are remarkably true to the painting.
The show continues through April 5. See http://www.musicalfare.com or call the box office at 716-839-8540 for tickets or information.