Pasadena, CA

Uncovering Life's Perspectives through Sunday in the park with George: a show not to be missed

Caroline at EatDrinkLA

Sunday in the Park with George was written almost 40 years ago, but the themes in our lives remain the same. It’s a musical about being seen, the sides of ourselves we choose to show others, and the people and things we give our attention to. Find out why this limited-run production at the Pasadena Playhouse is more relevant than ever and what you might learn about yourself by just slowing down and experiencing the beauty of live theatre.

The Story: Sunday in the Park with George

Sunday in the Park with George was written by Stephen Sondheim, with the book by James Lapine, and first debuted in 1984. The story is an imagining of the painting, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte—1884, by Georges Seurat. The musical brings to life the characters in the painting, and at the heart of the show is the love story between Dot, played by Krystina Alabado, and the artist Georges Seurat, played by Graham Phillips.

Act I takes place between 1884 and 1886 in the park on an island outside Paris during the time A Sunday on La Grande Jatte—1884 was painted, while Act II takes place in 1984 in Chicago and then back again in the same park. Act II is the story of another George, also an artist, and we watch as he struggles not unlike his predecessor but now with the wisdom that comes with time.

The production uses a screen of sorts to separate the upstage orchestra from the actors, and that also acts as a projection of the painting that transforms throughout the show and is itself almost like another character.
A Sunday on La Grande Jatte—1884Photo byThe Art Institute of Chicago

The Characters

The show opens with Dot as she struggles to capture the attention of her artist lover as he sketches her. It's a fight we are too familiar in our society: the balance between work and loved ones. Ironically, while we're watching Dot appear to be unseen as anything but a model, we as an audience can't help but be completely enraptured by the actress playing her, Krystina Alabado, whose solo numbers like "Sunday in the Park with George" and "Everybody loves Louis" in the first act brought as many goosebumps to my arms as points in the original pointillism masterpiece.

Much like the work of art itself, though, it’s only as you examine the parts of the whole that you truly begin to see it all. The production is “dotted” with perfect little vignettes as the painting comes to life. You see Georges's mother, an older woman, and her nurse, played by Liz Larsen and Jennie Greenberry, respectfully. You also have two gossipy women, both named Celeste, played by Jenni Barber and Juliana Sloan. As well as Jules and Yvonne, played by Michael Manuel and Emily Tyra, who play a seasoned artist from whom Georges is seeking a level of approval, and his wife, whom Dot can't stand. This is just a sample of the people you meet on the various Sundays as the painting is taking shape and shows a slice of life in Paris society that so very much resembles today.

All of the actors play a second set of roles in Act II, with Graham Phillips acting as George the artist, only in 1984, and Krystina Alabado playing Marie, his grandmother, who helps him see his way in the world. I'm holding back several key details here to maintain an air of mystery for your own experience.

When Phillips and Alabado are together, it's spellbinding, and the music of Sondheim that alternates between discord and harmony keeps the audience wanting more. For that reason, Act II seems to fly by as we watch George work the room of his light installation show and then reach the sense of closure that is desperately needed to live any life with a level of satisfaction.
Georges and DotPhoto byPhoto Credit: Jeff Lorch

Why see this show Now

We are told by Marie that "Children and Art" are the only things worth living for, but they both require a different level of sacrifice that is all too often the modern dilemma. While this might represent the show in broad strokes, like any great work of art, what is held close in the eye of the beholder is always particular. You see what your soul needs you to see in order to move forward. Go see this show, if only to give yourself a much-needed break from all the things that demand your attention. It will color your world.

The Pasadena Playhouse

The historic Pasadena Playhouse offers an intimate setting with which to experience this Sunday afternoon. Sunday in the park with George is the first of eight productions that will be going on for the next six months at the theatre to celebrate the late Stephen Sondheim. Other highlights include A Little Night Music and Bernadette Peters in Concert.

Don't miss your chance to catch Sunday in the Park with George, which concludes on March 19th, 2023. Tickets begin at $39 and can be purchased online or calling 626-356-7529.
Sondheim CelebrationPhoto byThe Pasadena Playhouse

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