BWW Review: SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE at Southbank Theatre, The Lawler
Sunday In The Park With George presented by Watch This is executed to perfection and is a must see for the 2019 Melbourne musical season.
This musical uses the painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by French pointillism painter Georges Seurat as inspiration to create a fascinating and engaging story around a fictitious artist called George. Set in 1884 France, we follow George's everyday life on a Sunday as well as those of the models he paints. In the second act we fast forward to 1984 New York City and follow George's great grandson also named George and also an artist.
With music and lyrics by the godfather of music theatre Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine it is no wonder this musical was nominated for 10 Tony Awards when it premiered on Broadway in 1984 and went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Sondheim's score, as usual, is simply sensational. He excels in breathing life into both artist and model alike and brilliantly portrays the methodical nature of painting in the pointillism style. Lapine's excellent book complements Sondhiem's work superbly making their collaboration sublime.
Directors Dean Drieberg and Sonya Suares have done a fantastic job in bringing Sunday In The Park With George to life for a contemporary audience. Their interpretation not only focuses on the importance of George's character arch but also that of his lover Dot. In their own words "Dot's storyline and central dilemma - and by extension those of her contemporaries, each of whom finds themselves distorted in some way, shape or form in their translation to George's canvas". Their vision for the show is articulated and accomplished extremely well.
Sarah Tulloch's set design and Rob Sowinski's lighting design cleverly create chiaroscuro on the empty white canvas stage which throughout the show blossoms into colour. They easily merge live action and projections into one to allow Seurat's painting to come to life.
Rhiannon Irving's costume design subtly brings elements of pointillism into the costumes. She also creates a clear and strong contrast between 1884 an 1984 onstage for the characters.
Overall the cast are extremely strong and work well as an ensemble, particularly in their choral singing under the musical direction of Ned Wright-Smith.
Nick Simpson-Deeks as George and Vidya Makan as Dot/Marie are standouts. Simpson-Deeks has a natural stage presence and carries the entire show on his shoulders with ease. He delivers an intelligent and emotional performance with strong vocals. Makan sings beautifully as Dot and is hilarious and adorable as Marie. Jackie Rees also shines as George's Mother.
This production of Sunday In The Park With George has been so successful in its short run in Melbourne to 24th August that it has fully sold out. For more information on upcoming works by Watch This visit their website watchthis.net.au