Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sunday in the Park With George

I wasn't even planning to see this brief production of Sunday in the Park With George, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and benefiting City Center. It's not my favorite Sondheim show, and my life has been a bit topsy-turvy recently, etc, etc. But a truly fabulous friend got us tickets, and, oh boy, am I grateful. I still find the show to be uneven and awkward as a whole, but this Sunday swept my reservations aside and replaced them with tears, laughter, and awe.

Gyllenhaal's voice didn't particularly impress me in Little Shop of Horrors, but he has clearly worked very hard since then to make it the best instrument it could be. He was wonderful. Sunday is odd in that George doesn't have a big number until seven songs in. We do get to see and hear what he wants--Dot to stay still, order, design, composition, tone, form, symmetry, balance, a new way of seeing and showing the world--but he isn't really fully dimensional until "Finishing the Hat." There was a little bit of suspense--how would Gyllenhaal do? Gyllenhaal did good! He gave us a gorgeous, emotional, character-defining version that made the song sound yet again new.

Annaleigh Ashford as Dot gave a full-blooded, human, funny-touching, beautifully sung performance. She was an excellent match for Gyllenhaal, the ideal bright yang to his dark yin. And their "Move On" was glorious, glorious, glorious.

But Gyllenhaal and Ashford were far from the whole story. Any show that has the brilliant Ruthie Ann Miles in a small supporting role and the insanely talented Michael McElroy in the ensemble is clearly presenting an embarrassment of riches. (Here's the rest of the amazing cast: Brooks Ashmanskas, Phillip Boykin, Max Chernin, Carmen Cusack, Gabriel Ebert, Claybourne Elder, Lisa Howard, Zachary Levi, Liz McCartney, Stephanie Jae Park, Solea Pfeiffer, Gabriella Pizzolo, Phylicia Rashad, Jaime Rosenstein and Lauren Worsham. I mean, really!)

Ben Brantley wrote in the Times, "this is one of those shows that seems destined to be forever spoken of with misty-eyed bragging rights by anyone who sees it." Forget bragging rights--someone has to video this production! It was too wonderful to be limited to the relatively few people who were able to see it at City Center.

(4th row balcony; ticket was a gift from amazing friend)

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