- Sunday in the Park with George
- "They are out early today..."
- No Life
- Color and Light
- The Day Off
- Everybody Loves Louis
- The One on the Left
- Finishing the Hat
- We Do Not Belong Together
Songwriter Stephen Sondheim and librettist James Lapine's Sunday in the Park with George, an examination of the life of the artist as seen through a fictional depiction of Georges Seurat's creation of the pointillist masterpiece Un Dimanche d'été á l'île de la Grande Jatte (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte) (1884-1986), was highly regarded during its Broadway run in 1984-1985, winning both a Pulitzer Prize and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. It did, however, garner some criticism, both for Sondheim's score, which, like Seurat's painting, was constructed more of lyrical and musical fragments than conventional songs (surprisingly, Sondheim lost the Tony Award for scoring to Jerry Herman and La Cage aux Folles), and for the second act, which took the story into the present day and created a great-grandson for Seurat who was a contemporary artist. For many, the initial production, starring Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters, was definitive, and although there have been subsequent stagings, none was recorded for the next 22 years, when PS Classics, an independent label known for its association with Sondheim, undertook to preserve the version done by London's Menier Chocolate Factory theater company just as it was about to transfer to a West End house (it opened at Wyndham's Theatre on May 23, 2006). Musical theater fans will first want to note that the recording is longer than the original, which was pressed initially on two LPs, later reissued as a single CD, and ran nearly 69 minutes; this one, on two CDs, runs almost 90 minutes. The extra time is given over to relatively minor additions, although due to the structure of the score, having extra fragments helps the overall picture of the show to be appreciated more clearly. And the producers have included a bonus for fans, not only restoring the brief song "The One on the Left," but, at the end of disc two, including a special, longer version of the song as it was originally written; it proves yet another example of Sondheim's remarkable talent for wordplay. The major differences between this recording and the first one concern the music and the accents, however. The show has been re-orchestrated by Jason Carr for a small band of only five pieces (though there are some added musicians), which gives the score more of the chamber feeling that some observers preferred when the show was given its first tryout at the Off-Broadway Playwrights Horizons theater company in 1983. And the director has opted to have the actors sing in British accents throughout the first act, which creates a new element of interpretation since, for example, Seurat speaks in a middle-class accent while his mistress, Dot, has a distinctly lower class accent, reinforcing the differences between them. It might have been better to stick to the British accents in the second act, however (though that might have necessitated rewriting), since only Daniel Evans, in the lead role of George, manages a convincing American accent. He is also the standout performer otherwise, giving George a warmth and understatement, while managing, for example, the different dog voices George must imitate, without being nearly as showy as Mandy Patinkin was. Jenna Russell has the frankly impossible task of following Bernadette Peters, and while she creates an appealing and varied Dot, she really can't compete. Maybe, in retrospect, the Original Broadway cast album of Sunday in the Park with George was definitive. But musical theater fans are likely to find enough different shades and added features in this second version to find it worth hearing.
For an answer to the question "Why isn't "Sunday in the Park.." revived more often?" compare the new London cast to the original Broadway cast. The score was written for two huge Broadway talents, Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters, and although the London cast gives it their all, what most clearly comes across is how difficult this score is to sing. See the show in London instead, and re-release the orginal cast recording for the ages!