"the gross and scope of my opinion ..." Hamlet I,1.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE
IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE
National Youth Music Theatre at The
is a freely fictionalised
Seurat, the pointillist painter who died young and unappreciated in
and Lapine's 1984 musical shows him at work, principally on Un
dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte.
His sketches, much enlarged, sit on easels and form the only
characters – all sorts and conditions – are brought to life and
given a backstory, as George tries to capture
the casual chaos of a suburban park – on an island in the middle of
a blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole,
through design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony."
a slightly forced coda, we fast-forward to the present – well,
1984, with some lovely fashions – in which George's great
grandson, also an artist, unveils an installation paying tribute
to the original painting, and later takes it to the now deserted
island, where he meets the ghost of Dot, the painter's model and
muse, as the blank canvas is gradually peopled by the figures
from the past.
Chissick's evocative production uses the moving easels very
effectively – they are internally lit for the C20 “Chromolume”
– and the lighting, as it must, helps to paint the pictures.
fantastic cast, none older than 21, copes brilliantly with the subtle
characterization and the very tricky Sondheim score. Especially
effective musical moments are the pointillist underscore for “Colour
and Light”, and the choral ensembles for the tableaux. Musical
a chamber ensemble from the keyboard, above and behind the action.
Josling makes a compelling George, splendidly
moving in his soliloquies, dealing with his detractors and, in the
opening sequence, trying to persuade his Dot to pose properly.
sung beautifully by Laura Barnard, who also brings a frail sincerity
to the elderly Marie [Dot's daughter and ex Floradora girl] in New
York, reading the great man's biography from cue cards.
the other colourful characters – the two Celestes and their soldier
beaux, the rude
boys, the American tourists – Lucy Carter stands out as the Nurse
to Eloise Kenny-Ryder's Old Lady, as does Matt Pettifor's truculent
Boatman, with his eye-patch and his dog, also done as a canvas
sketch. Adam Johnson gives an assured, and very amusing, performance
as rival artist and caustic critic Jules, while
brings an engaging warmth to Louis the Baker, Dot's eventual husband.
very welcome Sondheim revival is just one of four NYMT shows this
summer. It deserves a much longer run than this, but we can be sure
that at least some of these talented young performers will be back,
gracing the musical theatre scene in years to come.