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Review Roundup: Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford in SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE- All the Reviews!

Review Roundup: Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford in SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE- All the Reviews!

Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal (in his Broadway musical debut) and Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford lead the all-star cast of an extremely limited engagement of Stephen Sondheim and George Lapine's, "Sunday in the Park with George".

Sondheim and Lapine's masterpiece follows painter Georges Seurat (Jake Gyllenhaal) in the months leading up to the completion of his most famous painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Consumed by his need to "finish the hat," Seurat alienates the French bourgeoisie, spurns his fellow artists, and neglects his lover Dot (Annaleigh Ashford), not realizing that his actions will reverberate over the next 100 years.

The creative team for Sunday in the Park with George features set design by Tony Award winner Beowulf Boritt, projection design by Tal Yarden, costume design by Tony Award winner Clint Ramos, lighting design by Tony Award winner Ken Billington, sound design by Tony Award nominee Kai Harada, co-projection design by Christopher Ash, hair and wig design by Cookie Jordan, make-up design by Joe Dulude II, music coordination by Tony Honor recipient Seymour Red Press, orchestrations by 2-time Tony Award winner Michael Starobin, production supervision by Tony honor recipient Peter Lawrence, casting by Carrie Gardner/Stephen Kopel, technical supervision by Hudson Theatrical Associates, general management by 101 Productions, Ltd., musical staging by Ann Yee, and music direction by Chris Fenwick.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: He is a thorny soul, a man neither happy nor particularly kind, and not someone you'd be likely to befriend. But when the 19th-century French painter Georges Seurat, reincarnated in the solitary flesh by a laser-focused Jake Gyllenhaal, demands that you look at the world as he does, it's impossible not to fall in love. Or something deeper than love - closer to religious gratitude - is the sentiment you may experience in the finale that concludes the first act of the marvelous revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's "Sunday in the Park With George," which opened on Thursday night at the newly restored Hudson Theater.

David Cote, Time Out NY: As far as human effects, you will be suitably swept away by Gyllenhaal's passionately acted, exquisitely articulated George, the most psychologically cohesive and sympathetic rendition I've witnessed live. (Mandy Patinkin on video will always remain the gold standard.) Comical and tender by turns, Ashford provides the flashes of light where Gyllenhaal turns inward to shadow.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: Lapine's overall approach - assuming that is what I am describing here - is a perfectly justifiable and resonant way into this show and, I'd wager, a closer match for where Lapine (her uncle) and Sondheim are now with regard to their midlife show. The downside, though, of the projection of art as personality-killing necessity is that you don't see a lot of possibility for life lived the other way - you know, the functional one with the love, art and kids - and the diminished potential of the road not traveled has the impact of cutting the tension in the piece and compromising one of its most perpetually engaging qualities.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: A concert staging at City Center last fall of Stephen Sondheim's 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical "Sunday in the Park With George" went swimmingly, with Jake Gyllenhaal in the titular role of Georges Seurat, raising hopes for an extended engagement. The theater gods heard, and the re-mounted show is back for a commercial run in one of Broadway's historic jewels, the newly restored Hudson Theater. Under the direction of Sarna Lapine, the staging is more theatrically structured than it was at City Center, with its stools and lecterns. But even as retooled, the show retains the quality of serene simplicity that heightens the poignant beauty of the score. Gyllenhaal returns in the leading role, his acting chops intact, but his voice refreshed and enhanced by what must have been professional coaching.

Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: Nevertheless, their names will not soon disappear from the thoughts of Tony voters come spring, for what was clear when the show was presented last October is more so today: This is a spectacular revival and the principals are simply breathtakingly good. The performances are assured - indeed, they've only grown in confidence. Moreover, the semi-staging by Lapine's niece, Sarna Lapine, with musical staging by Ann Yee, reveals (as if we needed reminding), one of the most beautiful, moving and endlessly inventive scores ever written, not to mention the equally ambitious and rewarding book that frames it.

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: The creation of harmony out of disharmony and coherence out of chaos are among the themes of Sunday in the Park With George. However, in fortifying for Broadway what was already a probing interpretation of this complex 1984 musical diptych by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, first seen in a New York City Center concert staging last fall, the production has elevated an affecting work into something quite rare and exquisite. Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford bring richer shadings and startling emotional candor to their dual roles, supported by a gifted ensemble that embodies the notion of great art being born out of multiple influences nourishing a unique vision.

Matt Windman, amNY: This revival (directed by Sarna Lapine, niece of James Lapine) originated as a concert staging at City Center. With the exception of an elaborate light sculpture sequence, it is a simple presentation that lacks the visual thrills of the original production or the 2008 Broadway revival. However, storytelling is focused and the score (played by a full orchestra) sounds as glorious as ever. Compared with other actors who have played the role, Gyllenhaal's Georges is sensitive, wounded and even sympathetic.

Joe Dziemianowicz, The New York Daily News: Jake Gyllenhaal's got it, by George! A handsome, nimble singing voice to go with his solid acting chops, that is. It's all on exhibition in Broadway's wonderful revival of "Sunday in the Park with George" at the newly renovated Hudson Theatre. This Pulitzer-winning musical by composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim and book writer James Lapine premiered 33 years ago. Its power to stir the heart and head with its radiant score and unfading story about the art of making art - and love - is as strong as ever.

Allison Adato, Entertainment Weekly: But one need not know Seurat to enjoy this enchanting production. Jake Gyllenhaal, bearded and intense with a rich singing voice, makes the character understood immediately: He is an artist blinded to life's joys by his own work ethic, even as he spends his days observing other people at their leisure. (George is not a total prig, however, and Gyllenhaal lets loose with some silly business singing the voices of two dogs in the painting.) By contrast, the pointillist's model and lover, the aptly named Dot, played with an endearing blend of comic sparkle and pathos by Annaleigh Ashford, wants the simple pleasures of going to the Follies and eating cream puffs. But she cannot pull George from his studio, and - practical girl that she is - may take up with the baker who keeps her in dough.

Nicole Serratore, The Stage: 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 George 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.

Jesse Green, Vulture: Sunday in the Park with George, which opens tonight in a bare-bones but beautiful-enough Broadway revival starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford, is both a deconstruction and an example of that duality. A deconstruction because Lapine's book, among the brainiest ever written for a musical, works innumerable trenchant variations on the theme of sacrifice for art. The show is also a demonstration of that theme, because Sondheim's songs are so profound that they feel, even while unspooling in unbroken threads of human longing, as if they had left the realm of lived experience and entered a Keatsian plane of absolute truth-beauty far above our own. The lyrics constantly delight the ear while also dramatizing, in that very delight, the way art both exalts and erases. "Rapturous" and "capture us" are like the jaws of a trap snapping shut.

Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: If Gyllenhaal and Ashford are the name draws, don't be surprised when you fall absolutely under the spell of the entire ensemble, including Seurat's mother (played by Penny Fuller, who turns out to be a battleaxe with a far-from-hardened heart), her nurse, two soldiers, two chatty shop-girls called Celeste (Ashley Park and Jenni Barber, adept scene-stealers both, particularly Park and her adorably annoying laugh), Louis the baker with whom Dot makes a calculated match, and two hideously philistine-ish American tourists.

Linda Winer, Newsday: Every once in a rare while, the theater rewards us with a kind of transcendent experience, a feeling that this, surely, will never happen again - at least not remotely in the same way. My once-in-a-lifetime theory is being crushed - exquisitely, rapturously - right now as Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford step up alongside Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters in the treasured place where I keep memories of the original "Sunday in the Park With George." They are that good.

Steven Suskin, Huffington Post: Gyllenhaal is very good; so good, in fact, that we needn't say "very good for a movie actor." George-James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim's musicalized version of the pointillist painter Georges Seurat-is an introverted and anti-social fellow, who seems to only find comfort when he is at canvas or sketchpad. Gyllenhaal, while properly self-absorbedly as he perennially tries to "finish the hat," gives George an inner gleam of vulnerability and sensitivity which is sometimes overlooked in the role. (Hidden in the script is the comment that the women "all wanted him and hated him at the same time.") Gyllenhaal shows us this inner layer, which has not always been visible in past productions, and properly carries it over to the 20th century George in Chicago.

Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: Gyllenhaal is a very good actor and sings surprisingly well, but neither he nor the amusing Ashford can lift the skimpy, pedestrian production to the sublime level of the two previous Broadway presentations of the show: the1985 original and the 2008 British import.

Roma Torre, NY1: "Sunday In The Park" won't appeal to everyone. But fans will not be disappointed. Director Sarna Lapine, employing state-of-the-art projections, delivers an immaculate production combining art, science and poetry in perfect harmony.

Peter Marks, Washington Post: Chiefly through Gyllenhaal's performance - at once intense and emotionally transparent - this version makes clearer than ever the incisive emotional channel from Act 1 to Act 2. In each half of the musical, too, there is a visual coup, in the form of an example of each artist's work. At the end of Act 1, it's the thrilling tableau of Seurat's painting come to life. And in Act 2, it's a demonstration of the artist's experiments with color and light in the form of a laser display that he calls a "chromolume."

Christopher Kelly, For the newest Broadway revival, though, we get not just humanity and warmth, but intimacy, tenderness, bursts of humor, and flashes of tremendous beauty -- we get, in effect, as accomplished a production of "Sunday in the Park with George" as we are likely to ever see. Headlined by a very impressive Jake Gyllenhaal (yes, he really can sing), and an altogether stupendous Annaleigh Ashford, what could be a mere exercise in coy postmodernism becomes something moving and true.

Diane Snyder, Telegraph: Gyllenhaal and Ashford harmonize not only when they're singing - Move On is a heart-tugging highlight - but also when George and Dot just gaze lovingly yet uncomprehendingly at each other. (It's a shame they won't be eligible for Tony Awards; the short run prompted producers not to invite voters.) But it's Sunday, the signature song that closes both acts, that brings down the house as the ensemble re-creates Seurat's painting.

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