REVIEW: SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE
at the Arvada Center
by Michael Mulhern
The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities closes its season with Stephen Sondheim’s SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE playing now through May 6th. Inspired by the painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat, Sunday in the Park with George merges past and present into beautiful, poignant truths about life, love and the creation of art.
“White, a blank page or canvas
The challenge, bring order to the whole
The inspiring opening lines of this musical must have been this companies mantra as they achieved all of these attributes for complete and perfect harmony.
I am sure I say this about all of his musicals, but Sunday in the Park with George may be one of my favorite Stephen Sondheim musicals. The ultimate tribute of art imitating life and life imitating art, this show just speaks to me on so many levels. And when this glorious ensemble sings Sunday with such passion and vigor there is not a dry eye in the house.
Over the past decade I have seen so many shows at the Arvada Center; some wonderful, some questionable but all good. I am delighted to say that Sunday in the Park with George is not only one of the top 5 best shows that I have seen at the Arvada Center but also in Colorado!
Before I start on individual performances I have to applaud the ensemble as a whole, featuring some of the finest talent in Colorado. This exceptional cast not only intimately explored their individual characters but also had such dynamic interpersonal connections that drew the audience in and made this show such a success. Job very well done!
Cole Burden was superb in the lead role of George. He showed such contrast as Seurat, the stoic artist yet obsessively passionate for his art; and George, the disenchanted artist trying to find his passion again. His brilliant voice really shone in Finishing the Hat, Putting it Together and Color and Light.
Emily Van Fleet was sheer delight from the moment she started singing Sunday in the Park and the audience just fell in love with her. As Dot she was personable and charming and built such a lovely character arch. She was also so sweet and endearing as Marie. For a young and vibrant actress, Emily played elderly quite well and made the audience swoon with Children and Art. And I could not hold back the tears with her gorgeous rendition of Move On. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for this fine actress in productions to come.
Director Rod A. Lansberry and Musical Director David John Madore were so thoughtful in their guidance, casting and construction of this show. The musical flowed with ease, and every moment was intimately highlighted and character completely actualized.
At first appearance, the set looked basic and bare, but the genius that is designer Brian Mallgrave brought this set to life with color, clarity, and such beautiful contrast. Lighting Design by Shannon McKinney and Sound Design by David Thomas only further complimented the entire experience. And I don’t know who made the illuminating art installation in Act Two but it was eccentric and exceptional. Costume Design by Clare Henkel and Wig and Makeup Design Diana Ben-Kiki make such a great team and it shows in every production. These talented two were meticulous in their specific design and matched this iconic art piece masterfully. I also enjoyed Act Two where they had much more fun with the 1980s flair.
There is a difference between good, great, excellent, and a masterpiece and I am proud to say that this talented cast and crew elevated this production to another level. This truly was a masterpiece in every sense of the word!
“Move On” and over to the Arvada Center to see this true work of art. SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE is moving audiences now through May 6th Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 pm, with matinees on Wednesdays at 1:00 pm, and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 pm. Audience engagement events, including a weekly theatre salon (registration required), insider’s talkbacks, and happy hours with the cast, are held through the run of the production. To purchase tickets go to http://arvadacenter.org/sunday-in-the-park-with-george or call 720-898-7200.
PHOTO CREDIT: Matt Gale Photography 2018