Act 2 fast-forwards 100 years. Patinkin now plays Seurat's great-grandson, George, himself a frustrated artist. In the score's best-known song, "Putting It Together," George (and Sondheim himself) explains the hazards of trying to create art while also confronting the reality of having to pay for it. In a search for inspiration, George travels with his grandmother--Seurat and Dot's daughter (played by Peters)--to the original island where Seurat created the painting. As with Sondheim and cocreator James Lapine's next collaboration, Into the Woods, Sunday is often criticized for redirecting its focus in the second act instead of letting the first act stand by itself as a complete work. The second act, however, is the emotional core of the show, as George confronts all the feelings his great-grandfather had repressed so many years ago.
Stephen Sondheim's brilliant score is remarkable for its combination of vivid colors (listen to his dots of sound that represent Seurat's pointillistic style of painting), character pieces, and sheer beauty. The cast is terrific, and the show, aced out of most of the 1984 Tony Awards by La Cage aux Folles, won the Pulitzer Prize for drama.
Recorded before a live audience, Sunday is especially entertaining on video, as the staging elements bring out the full humor and inventiveness of the show, and it is astonishing to see the disparate characters form themselves into the elements of the familiar painting. So many great musicals are banished to the memories of those who attended live or--even worse--immortalized as inferior movies. Sunday in the Park with George is an absolute must-see for anyone interested in musical theatre, and a must-own for anyone with a passion for it. The DVD includes an audio track with commentary by Sondheim, Lapine, Patinkin, and Peters. --David Horiuchi
The 1999 commentary track is Sondheim, Lapine, Peters and Patinkin viewing the video sans sound and talking about the development of the show in workshop and onto Broadway. Good enough reason to get the DVD even if you have a tape of the PBS "American Playhouse" presentation of years ago.
The performance reflects the passion of the production, the range and power of the emotions spoken through the music and talent of the actors clearly coming through the minor shortcomings of the recording - this *is* the production I saw in 1984. If you are only familiar with the cast CD or the songs that made the charts you must see this DVD.
The production of the video of the show is very good. Lapine gets some good shots, even though it's basically a taped version of a Broadway show. The editing in spots is very good.
Bernadette Peters, a favorite performer of mine, is not in very good voice for the taping. I think I've read that she was having vocal problems at the time. Some dubbing is apparent in spots. Mr. Patinkin is very subdued and subtle in his performance.
The DVD is a preferable way to watch this show due to its extra audio track of Sondheim, Lapine, Peters and Patinkin reminiscing about it. There are some great stories told by the group. Mr. Sondheim sheds some light on the earlier drafts of songs and scenes.
Remember, this show won the Pulitzer Prize! It is not an "Oklahoma" kind of musical -- it's very artsy and concerns a difficult man obsessed with his art. But it is so sweet and clever. Like Seurat's famous painting that the musical is based on, the stellar talent behind the show blend together to produce a truly luminescent experience.
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