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.