Tag: James Lapine
Taking into account the nearly 700 productions that we reviewed in 2012, here are our picks for the best of the best. Bravo!! (FYI: We’re honored to have the national website Huffington Post use our choices for their Top 10 Chicago productions here)
Sunday in the Park with George
By Stephen Sondheim (music, lyrics)
I remember reading somewhere that Donna Murphy’s performance was "emotionally naked" and I didn’t understand what it meant until I saw this clip. She puts herself out there, her soul and her emotions for all the world to see. In my opinion, that is what an actor should go for every time.
You can see the humility and passion for Giorgio in her eyes. That’s not even Donna, that IS Fosca. She completely disappeared into that role. Fantastic performance.
Porchlight’s ‘Sunday’ doesn’t quite put it together
|Porchlight Music Theatre presents|
|Sunday in the Park with George|
|Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine
Directed by L. Walter Stearns, music direction by Eugene Dizon
Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago (map)
Through Oct. 31 | Tickets: $38 | more info
Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes
"His touch is too deliberate, somehow."
That lyric, from the 1984 Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning Sunday in the Park with George, might well describe Porchlight Music Theatre Director L. Walter Stearns’ uneven revival, which somehow fails to connect the dots of the Stephen Sondheim musical.
Sondheim James Lapine’s imagined backstory behind 19th-century painter Georges Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" (now housed at the Art Institute of Chicago) has only a tangential relationship to the real biography of the groundbreaking neoimpressionist whose early death deprived the art world of what surely would have been a brilliant career. Instead it concentrates on the troublesome issues of balance between art and life, work and relationships, ambition and practicality.
The artist calls for "Order. Design. Composition. Tone. Form. Symmetry. Balance" — elements that can make or break any work of art. This imbalanced production falters under too much design and not enough tone.
Hidden behind the scenes, Music Director Eugene Dizon on piano and his orchestra — Carolyn Berger, violin; Michelle Lewis, cello; Allison Richards, viola; Patrick Rehker and Derek Weihofen, woodwinds; and Jennifer Ruggieri, harp — do a stellar job with the music. Unfortunately, many of the singers don’t measure up.
Amanda Sweger‘s massive backdrop and Liviu Pasare‘s distracting video projections overwhelm the small stage and the cast as well.
Brandon Dahlquist ably captures George’s sensitivity and absorption, with an expressive face that suggests the real Seurat’s soulful looks and a fine tenor. Yet too often he’s obscured behind the scrim or facing away from the audience. (John Francisco will take this role for the final three weekends of the run.) Seurat’s painting may be the subject of the play, but we really don’t need to see it all the time. An empty stretcher would have conveyed the idea of the work just as well and allowed us to see the actor’s face.
On the other hand, Jess Godwin’s passion is all in her face and rarely in her singing. Playing George’s lover, Dot, the animated and lovely Godwin displays an almost palpable yearning for the artist. The slender redhead bears no resemblance to the Seurat’s actual mistress, Madeleine Knobloch (the buxom subject of "Young Woman Powdering Herself"), which doesn’t matter, but her voice often sounds as thin as her figure, and that does.
Several members of the supporting cast put in excellent performances, however. Sara Stern is superb as George’s peevish, elderly mother. Her fabulous version of "Beautiful" is the highlight of Act I. Sarah Hayes and Daniel Waters do a hilarious job as the unhappy American tourists. Bil Ingraham and Heather Townsend are aptly haughty as the successful painter Jules and his wife, Yvonne, delivering tittering pronouncements on George’s work in "No Life," and Michael Pacas makes a wonderfully wry and full-voiced boatman.
The second act, which jumps forward to a modern artist, also named George — a fictional great-grandson of Seurat — seems much stronger, as if the cast and crew felt more comfortable in the 20th century. Dahlquist, now fresh-faced and beardless, is out in front here. But Godwin, now portraying George’s grandmother, sings "Children and Art" so softly she’s nearly inaudible.
Sunday is one of Sondheim’s more challenging musicals. Porchlight would have done much better to concentrate on the essentials of light and harmony instead of reaching for the heavy design elements that weigh down this production.
"Art isn’t easy, no matter how you look at it."
In Act I, singers Jayson Brooks, Sean Effinger-Dean, Nick Foster, Jess Godwin, Lina Kernan, Ryan Lanning, Bethany Thomas, Joseph Tokarz and others perform. At intermission, the audience votes to determine who’ll return to sing again in Act II.
Tickets are $40. Two votes are included with your admission. Each additional vote costs $1 and supports new talent, new works and new productions at Porchlight.
This in-the-works musical will make it’s debut next winter at the La Jolla Playhouse. The 2006 Oscar-nominated, Sundance hit about a lovably dysfunctional family has signed up composer/lyricist William Finn (25th Annual Spelling Bee, Falsettos, New Brain) and book-writer James Lapine (Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, Passion).
With such proven talent, this has the making of a hugely-popular hit. True, the movie’s dark humor can be quite outrageous, but Finn thrives on such edginess. And Lapine and Finn have shown that they can play-well-with-each-other through their award-winning collaboration – The 25th-Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Truth be told, with Chicago’s known affinity for new plays, we seem like a much better fit for just such a debut. But being that Lapine has worked with La Jolla on previous premiers, it makes sense that they landed the gig.