Sunday In The Park With George. (With Bonus Tracks CD) View full size

Sunday In The Park With George. (With Bonus Tracks CD)

Original Broadway Cast

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  • Format: CD
  • Artist: Mandy Patinkin Bernabette Peters
  • Composer: Stephen Sondheim
  • Year of Recording: 1984
  • Cat Number: MSWK790259.2
  • Barcode: 886979025929

In the wake of the commercial failure of the 1981 Broadway musical Merrily We Roll Along songwriter Stephen Sondheim sundered his relationship with producer/director Harold Prince with whom he had worked consistently since 1970. For his next show 1984's Sunday in the Park with George he turned to librettist/director James Lapine. But he did not attempt a work that seemed to be more commercially accessible on the contrary. Sunday in the Park with George was the first musical ever based on a painting. It was a fictional account of the creation of Georges Seurat's Impressionist masterpiece "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" featuring Seurat his mistress (supposedly a model for one of the figures in the painting) and other people depicted on the canvas. But what the show was really about was the relationship between the artist and the world which meant that it actually explored the same subject as Merrily We Roll Along albeit from a different angle. Here the first act found Seurat's mistress Dot deciding to leave him because he was too devoted to his art while in the second act a modern artist and descendant of Seurat wrestled with many of the same issues. Sondheim and Lapine were willing to engage the abstractness of their theme. Perhaps even more significant than Sondheim's abandonment of Prince was his using an orchestrator other than his longtime collaborator Jonathan Tunick. Here Michael Starobin handled the orchestrations and also got credit for his "programming" of the music for the "Chromolume" the laser sculpture the modern artist in the second act creates. Sondheim's melodies were full of short segments and sudden changes of tempo and Starobin set the tunes to arrangements employing synthesized as well as acoustic sounds for a musical approximation of pointillism Seurat's painting method. Saving the show from cold abstractness was the warmth and humor of many of the lyrics particularly as rendered by the versatile Mandy Patinkin as Seurat an actor fully capable of re-creating a dialogue between two dogs ("The Day off") and returning to Broadway after a decade in Hollywood Bernadette Peters proved a lively and emotional Dot. The result was a show that oddly enough pleased ordinary customers more than the Broadway cognoscenti such that it lost the major Tony Awards to La Cage aux Folles yet at 604 performances ran longer than any Sondheim show since Company in 1970 and won a Pulitzer Prize. The show is well represented on the Grammy-winning cast album which was given a reissue in 2007 that added as bonus tracks a couple of subsequent renditions of songs from it: a revised version of "Putting It Together" as performed in the 1993 off-Broadway musical revue of the same name starring among others Julie Andrews and a lovely version of the closing choral number "Sunday" from Peters' 1992 Carnegie Hall tribute to Sondheim. ~ William Ruhlmann All Music Guide

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