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Sunday in the Park With George starring Jake Gyllenhaal – review at Hudson Theatre, New York

Jake Gyllenhaal has proven in plays, on and off Broadway (Constellations, If There is I Haven’t Found It Yet), that he is an adroit stage actor. In his Broadway musical debut in Sunday in the Park with George, he demonstrates he can sing a notoriously challenging Sondheim score very well too.

Gyllenhaal plays Georges Seurat, the artist too obsessed with his work to hold onto love. Annaleigh Ashford is Dot, his adoring model. She’s full of comedic verve and is shattered by Dot’s disappointments. Gyllenhaal’s performance is one of quiet brooding and delicate anguish. He gives an achingly beautiful, self-reflective rendition of Finishing the Hat. His voice does not have the depth of some but he elucidates George’s pain in his performance.

In Act II, Gyllenhaal plays 1980’s George, a sculptor and inventor, who is just as lost but gentle. He plays the role in a less neurotic way than others have played him, while Ashford sleepily underplays George’s grandmother, Marie.

Director Sarna Lapine (niece of book writer and director of the original production, James Lapine) has taken a minimalist approach. Her production, which began as an Off-Broadway three-night concert, is a crisp but nuanced interpretation. It may feel a touch restrained in comparison with showier productions, but it boasts a skilful ensemble of stage vets alongside vivid projections of Seurat’s work by Tal Yarden.

Smart, small costume adjustments and colour-coding serve as a sly guide to the cast doubling between the acts. The wondrous Chromolume in Act II bursts with life, nearly stealing the show.

Verdict
Sharp, pared-down production in which Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a sensitive portrayal of the driven artist

Production Information

Production
Sunday in the Park with George
Venue
Hudson Theatre
City
New York
Starts
February 11, 2017
Ends
April 23, 2017
Press night
February 23, 2017
Book
James Lapine
Music
Stephen Sondheim
Lyrics
Stephen Sondheim
Director
Sarna Lapine
Musical director
Chris Fenwick
Set
Beowulf Boritt
Lighting
Ken Billington
Costume
Clint Ramos
Video
Tal Yarden
Technical
Christopher Ash (co-projections), Cookie Jordan (hair and wig), Joe Dulude II (makeup)
Cast includes
Jake Gyllenhaal, Annaleigh Ashford, Brooks Ashmanskas, Jenni Barber, Phillip Boykin, Mattea Marie Conforti, Erin Davie, Claybourne Elder, Penny Fuller, Jordan Gelber, Robert Sean Leonard, Liz McCartney, Ruthie Ann Miles, Ashley Park, Jennifer Sanchez, David Turner, Max Chernin, MaryAnn Hu, Michael McElroy, Jaime Rosenstein, Julie Foldesi, Laura Irion, Andrew Kober
Casting
Carrie Gardner, Stephen Kopel
Producer
Ambassador Theatre Group, Carole Shorenstein Hays, Caiola Productions, Jeffrey Finn, Jere Harris and Darren Deverna, J/K/R/S, Claire-Bridget Kenwright, LD Entertainment, The Lowy Saltpeter Company, Tulchin Bartner Productions, Catherine Schreiber and Co in association with New York City Center, Jeanine Tesori, Adam Speers for Ambassador Theatre Group, Riva Marker
Running time
2hrs 30mins