Sunday in the Park With George

Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim

Book: James Lapine

Inspired by the art of Georges Seurat, the nineteenth-century pointilliste painter, specifically a painting entitled "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," Sunday in the Park With George opens with George beginning a fresh-light figure study of his mistress, Dot, on an island somewhere in the Seine. Dot is not turning out to be the most cooperative subject, fidgeting and complaining. There are other people out and about on the tiny island as well, a group of boys, for example, shouting insults from the other side of the water and another painter, Jules, who disdains George's artwork. But as George knows, reality can always be improved upon, and with a sweep of his brush, he transforms the mocking boys into a band of youthful angels. Likewise, each of the other characters in the painting is wiped clean of their ugliness, rearranged and improved upon until George has created a work of art incorporating order, design, symmetry, balance and harmony. Unfortunately, burying oneself in one's work can often cause certain unforeseen repercussions, and George soon learns that Dot has decided to leave him. She is running away to America with a baker to make pastries. What George doesn't know is that Dot is carrying his child.

In Act Two, we jump to 1984 where another George, the grandson of the daughter Dot bore to George in Act One, has been commissioned to create a piece of mechanical performance art to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his great-grandfather's painting. This present-day George, however, is at a creative impasse. After completing his seventh "chromolume," he has begun to question whether he is finished as an artist--that is, until he receives an unexpected visit from the ghost of his great-grandmother who has a special message for him.

Sunday in the Park With George was originally staged as a Playwrights Horizons workshop production in July of 1983. It then opened at the Booth Theatre on May 2, 1984, with a cast that featured Mandy Patinkin (George) and Bernadette Peters (Dot/Marie). This production ran for 604 performances and went on to win Sondheim and Lapine the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for drama.

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