SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE
Directed by Randall Kramer
Cast: Paschal Frisina III, Jean Stafford, Doug Crane, Sheila McCarthy, Debbie Pappas, Jeffrey Coyle, Louis Colaiacovo, Steve Copps, Anne Ronaldi, Leah Russo, Nicole Marrale Cimato, Amy Jakiel, Kelly Jakiel, Kevin R. Kenndy, Robert J. Cooke
All the bells and whistles of Stephen Sondheim's "Sunday in The Park With George", were evident in MusicalFare's production of the musical speculating on the life of 19th Century French artist Georges Seurat and his masterwork, A Sunday Afternoon on The Isle of La Grande Jette, a painting that now resides in The Art Institute of Chicago. A simple beam of light provides a transfer of the painting to an onstage mesh screen, and is reversed with elements of the painting missing, when seen as a work in progress. A framed image of an earlier Seurat work, Bathers at Asnieres, is wheeled onto the stage, with actors within the frame of the painting, portraying animated sun bathers, a particularly well executed scene. Life sized cardboard cut-out figures of Seurat, as portrayed by Pascal Frisina III, during an artists' cocktail reception, in various poses for comedic effect in Act II, were as professionally mounted as the Broadway production. The monstrous 20th Century artwork, Chromolume 7, seen as a companion piece and an atrocity to Seurat's work, and devised for the musical from James Lapine's book, was effeciently created with pseudo-laser lights and electrical sparks and flash. Dog and monkey silhouettes are grounded to the stage, and then easily walked off by exiting actors, depicting a 19th Century amusement, and an inanimate tree changes position mid-scene, at a sketching artist's request. It seemed to me, if MusicalFare is to take on the task of producing this sometimes lavish, sometimes minimalist production, they needed to get the props right, and the creative and frugal effort displayed here, or maybe the price tag, paid off handsomely.
The 15 member cast is an accomplished troupe of actors and singers, each taking a dual role in the second act. Paschal Frisina III, as subject George Seurat, displays a fine batitone and offers depth and clarity to the struggling artist syndrome. Jean Stafford, as his lover Dot, merely channels Bernadette Peters Broadway preformance of the role, but with such expertise, the character shines through. The remainder of the cast are excellent with standout performances from all, notably Doug Crane, as competing artist Jules, eying and circling Seurat's painting, as if determining how to kill a threatening insect, and Sheila McCarthy as The Old Lady, casting a reserved mothering instinct across the stage, which looms like the shadow of death.
At approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes, the musical runs a little long, but is never dull, and far be it length over a scene cut. At times the fluidity is altered by the stringency of the proceedings, with the cast appearing a bit rushed at times, a bit hesitant at others. But as a fan of Sondheim, and a lover of this particular show, I was quite impressed and entertained.