Sunday in the Park with George is a fascinating and visually dazzling examination of painter Georges Seurat and his unique style, which art books call pointillism. Stephen Sondheim has crafted an entertaining score, but it was at the suggestion of book writer, James Lapine, that this artful and delightful production actually came together. While viewing his masterpiece, "A Sunday afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte", Lapine remarked that the only thing missing was the painter himself, and so we're blessed with this visually arresting musical recreation of that moment in time. The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has conjured up a superb rendering, filled with sharp performances and a pair of tableaus, one at the end of each act, that are breathtaking in their beauty.
Act One focuses on George's attempt to finish his masterwork while dealing with naysayers like fellow artist Jules and his wife Yvonne. He's romantically entangled with the cleverly named Dot, who is pregnant with his child, but leaves him for a baker named Louis who is headed for America. Throughout the first act we see the evolution of the characters to the canvas. Act Two may seem superfluous to some, but it allows Lapine and Sondheim to literally connect the "Dots", so to speak, bringing Seurat's model and lover to life to provide some sage advice to the great-grandson of the famous painter, who is a struggling painter himself.
Ron Bohmer gives an intense and completely absorbed performance as both Georges, and it's a joy to watch him. Erin Davie is also quite good and lovely as the more willful Dot/Marie, fully understanding the message behind a song like "Finishing the Hat", which pairs a light and catchy melody with lyrics that act to define Seurat's personality and motives. Together they make an engaging couple, even if they are at odds most of the time.
A large and splendid supporting cast includes: Zon Vonder Haar, Kari Ely, Jamie LaVerdiere, Jacob Lacopo, Jordan Parente, Charlie Ingram, Chris Hiettikko, Deanne Lorette, Steven French (particularly memorable as the surly Boatman), Meggie Cansler, Audrey Rae McHale, Abbey Friedmann, Rebecca Watson, Mark Emerson, Sean Montgomery, Nyssa Duchow, and the always amusing Whit Reichert, all of whom are pulling double and sometimes triple duty.
Rob Ruggiero's direction is excellent and there are no lost moments to be found. The pace is just right, and the acting flawless, in this winning production. Ralph Perkins choreographs with an eye for the times, and Alejo Vietti adjusts his costumes for the different periods depicted. Adrian Jones crafts a blank canvas for a set and then slowly fills it in with detail and backdrops that approximate Seurat's legendary works. F. Wade Russo's music direction is well done with Allison Rolf (violin, concertmaster), Tova Braitberg (violin, viola), Marcia Mann (cello), Nancy Schick (French horn), Michael Buerk (reeds), and Henry Palkes (keyboard) realizing this intriguing score with authority and taste.
Sunday in the Park with George is another hit, and is another must-see in a season full of them. The Rep's dazzling and intense production continues through January 29, 2012 at the Loretto-Hilton.