Interview: Spend a SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE and Jerry Lee At Sierra Rep

Playing through June 11 at the East Sonora Theatre

By: Jun. 02, 2023
Interview: Spend a SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE and Jerry Lee At Sierra Rep

Interview: Spend a SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE and Jerry Lee At Sierra Rep

Hidden treasures abound in the foothills of California, which is what first drew settlers to the area hundreds of years ago. They’re still plentiful, albeit in different forms. One such modern treasure is Sierra Rep, a professional company whose goal to bring quality theatre to the region is currently being realized in the form of the Stephen Sondheim Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, Sunday in the Park with George. BroadwayWorld was able to speak with Jerry Lee, artistic director of Sierra Rep and this production’s George, about Seurat, Sondheim, and what makes Sonora special.

We last spoke in 2021, immediately after Sierra Rep opened post-pandemic. How have things changed for the theatre since then? Are you back to pre-pandemic normalcy?

The biggest news is that the East Sonora Theatre underwent a major renovation during the shutdown. Part of our resiliency plan was to create a more hospitable environment for artists and audiences. We were successful in that attempt and continue to find ways to improve the overall SRT experience. We’re currently in the midst of our most exciting season ever!

 Sunday in the Park with George was inspired by Georges Seurat's painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. I have learned that while the painting may look simple and was not a favorite of critics, it is actually a very complex piece. Do you feel there are parallels to the musical?

It received accolades for being a ground-breaking musical comedy piece, and won the Pulitzer for Drama, though it does have an unfair reputation among some theatre folks for being stodgy. It is definitely complex from an actor’s perspective. It took until the second week of performances to gain my footing in the role. It is technically very difficult and multi-layered. But the worst thing that any of us in the play can do is overanalyze it. Once we release and let the play speak through us, it’s exhilarating and the audience is totally engaged right from the top of the show. The abstract qualities of the play feel more familiar to audiences now; I think it was just ahead of its time when it was written.

I would say that, despite its success, Sunday in the Park with George is a lesser-known Sondheim musical when compared to, say, Sweeney Todd. What made you choose this show?

Many theatres around the world are taking the opportunity to celebrate Sondheim’s genius and artistry since his passing in 2021. We have a shortlist of his musicals that will be presented in coming years but this one felt the most appropriate for the moment and seemed to fit in best with the rest of our 2023 titles.

Since Sonora is a bit of a drive for non-locals, some people may want to make a weekend of exploring the area. What would you recommend to someone out of town that showcases local treasures?

There is quite a lot to do in our little corner of California. Visitors should definitely stay overnight to get the full experience but it’s also just short enough to make a day trip from Sacramento. We suggest reserving a room at The Sonora Inn or Hotel Lumberjack, or any of the preferred hotels and B&Bs listed on our website. There are incredible eateries, antique shops, a bustling downtown, Columbia State Historic Park, many, many hikes and outdoor adventures, and, of course, our fabulous SRT shows.

 Some people may not realize that there is quality, professional theatre in your region. What is Sierra Rep about?

Yes, we are a hidden gem in the Mother Lode. We’re an acting-based company presenting contemporary classics throughout the year. We often say that we offer something for everyone in our season lineup. We also offer an exciting tribute concert series and an award-winning educational division that produces workshop productions for local youth and a touring program that brings live professional theatre to our region’s schools at no cost.

What else can we look forward to in the remainder of the 2023 season?

We are coming up on Jersey Boys! We’re one of the ten professional theatres in the country that were granted the rights to produce this title in 2023. After that we have a Tribute to Dolly Patron starring the fabulous Yesenia McNett and her band, then our youth actors will present Disney’s Frozen Jr, then we continue with our mainstage productions of Misery and The Graduate. Something for everyone!

Sunday in the Park with George plays at Sierra Rep in the East Sonora Theatre at 13891 Mono Way in Sonora through June 11. Tickets may be found online at or by calling the Box Office at (209) 532-3120.

 Photo credit: Richard Shiu Photography



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