SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE
a musical in two acts. Book by James Lapine. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
Produced at the Booth Theatre, New York, 2 May 1984 with Mandy Patinkin
(Georges/George), Bernadette Peters (Dot/Marie) and Charles Kimbrough
Produced at the Royal National Theatre, London, 15 March 1990 with Philip Quast, Maria Friedman and Gary Raymond.
A Sunday in Paris in 1884. Georges, an artist who is experimenting with innovative painting techniques, is seated in front of a bare white stage, blank drawing-pad in hand. His challenge? Tring order to the whole." As he speaks, the shimmering sea of white before him begins to transform itself - into a park on the island of La Grande Jatte. Georges starts to draw. A boat glides on, a couple appears in the distance and trees magically materialise. One tree, though, displeases Georges. He erases it from his pad and, suddenly, it is removed up into the sky and out of sight. For Dot, his model and long-suffering lover, standing in the sun, with no shade because there's no tree, it's just another Sunday In the Park with George.
Now, however, we are in a gallery, where Jules, another painter, and his wife Yvonne are considering Georges' first major painting, "Bathing at Asnières". It is too cerebral, they conclude, too cold, too controlled. There is No Life in his art, says Jules. No life in his life, adds Yvonne. In the painter's studio, Dot sits at a vanity mirror powdering her face, while, in an identical rhythm, Georges dabs spots of red and purple and white on his new painting: it's only Colour and Light. She is preparing to go to the Follies with him, but his painting proves more important -he has to stay to finish a hat. Dot leaves in a rage, realising that for Georges, his art will always come first.
Returning to the park on another Sunday sometime later, Georges. paints two women called Celeste as they Gossip about these poor deluded artists. Dot, pregnant, has a new lover, a baker called Louis. She has left Georges because she needs someone with an income to support her. Georges is, as ever, absorbed in his painting: today, he is imagining life as the Boatman's dog Spot, relishing The Day Off on the grass - after a "ruff" week. He goes when he sees Dot returning with the baker. True, he's not what she had in mind, but, in a way, his pastries are works of art and Everyone Loves Louis.
Georges is sorry Dot has left, but that is his life: he watches the world go by, while he sits at his easel, lost in some tiny detail, Finishing the Hat. "Look, 1 made a hat," he says, "where there never was a hat . . . " Dot knows now that Georges is whole, complete. But she is not self-contained, she needs to move on. She understands that We Do Not Belong Together. When she comes by with their child, he does not even look up. "Louis is her father," he says. "Louis is not her father," Dot replies. "Louis is her father now", says Georges. Dot and Louis will take the baby to America.
In the park, the Old Lady - Georges' mother - urges him to paint, and preserve, everything that is Beautiful before it disappears, before new buildings obliterate the trees. Even as Georges insists that change is beautiful, his mother pines for the old view. Around him, the park fills with characters, squabbling and fighting until Georges calls for "order" and "balance". He commences to re-arrange the people and the trees and, from the chaos, assembles a peaceful promenade on La Grande Jatte. Harmony at last. As the fractious ensemble comes together to form his painting, Georges freezes his models in their final poses: an ordinary, perfect Sunday.
It is still a Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte. But the serenity of the final tableau has degenerated into petty bickering among the figures in the painting. It's monotonous, it's not Franz's good profile. Jules is completely out of proportion and, worst of all, It's Hot Up Here. These people have been stuck in the same poses for almost a century and they're sick of it. It is now 1984 and Georges' work is on exhibition in America, where his and Dot's daughter Marie, as old as the painting, have come to see it.
With her is her grandson, another George, another artist. Although he's never really believed that the woman in the picture is his grandmother, his latest commission, a big white electrical machine with a sphere on top called Chromolume #7, is his own way of commemorating the famous painting. After some technical hitches, the machine finally functions and George and Marie narrate the history of Georges Seurat. After the performance the museum's Director announces that the new condominium development above the gallery is now open for viewing. The inconsequential chit-chat is depressing, but necessary. Link by link, drink by drink, clink by clink, George is Putting It Together - making the deal so that he can finish the art: connections lead to commissions lead to exhibitions. As the glittering guests drift off to dinner, Marie looks at her mother in the painting, remembering what she said about Children and Art and trying to relate her to her young grandson.
But Marie dies and George is invited to present his Chromolume in Paris. The island of La Grande Jatte is now a cacophony of concrete towers and the park his supposed great-grandfather painted has dwindled away to a tiny patch of grass. George has his great-grandmother's old grammar book and is idly intoning Lesson #8: "Charles has a book. . ." "Marie has the ball of Charles . . . " George misses Marie. And, as he thinks of her, Dot appears.
Despite his protestations that he has nothing more to say in his art, she urges him to Move On and, as he reads the words Dot's Georges scribbled in her book a century ago, the original promenaders re-convene for one more perfect Sunday. George looks again at the book: "A black page or canvas. His favourite. So many possibilities . . . " The stage fades to white, and Dot slowly disappears.
- Sunday in the Park with George – Georges & Dot
- No Life – Jules, Yvonne
- Color and Light – Dot, Georges
- Gossip – Celeste #1, Celeste #2, Boatman, Nurse, Old Lady, Jules, Yvonne
- The Day Off – Company
- Everybody Loves Louis – Dot
- The One on the Left – Soldier, Celeste #1, Celeste #2, Georges
- Finishing the Hat – Georges
- We Do Not Belong Together – Dot, Georges
- Beautiful – Old Lady, Georges
- Sunday – Company
- It's Hot Up Here – Company
- Chromolume #7 - Orchestra
- Putting It Together – Company
- Children and Art – Marie
- Lesson #8 – George
- Move On – George, Dot
- Sunday (Reprise) – Company
- Georges - An artist, bearded and brooding, and determined to perfect a new technique of painting: Pointillism - in which the small dabs of individual colours are mixed by the viewer into a scene of dazzling colours and light.
- Dot - Georges' model, mistress and the mother of his child. She busies herself with a grammar book that is helping her to read and write.
- Jules - Another painter.
- Yvonne - Jules' wife.
- Louise - Their daughter.
- An Old Lady - A regular stroller in the park and also Georges' mother, though she's not eager to advertise the relationship.
- The Old Lady's Nurse
- Celeste #1,
Celeste #2 - Two pretty gossips.
- Louis - A baker who kneads dough and needs Dot.
- Mr and Mrs - Two crass tourists from the United States.
- Franz - A servant.
- Frieda - A cook.
- A Boatman - The owner of a black dog, Spot
A Woman With Baby Carriage, A Man With a Bicycle, A Soldier, A Little Girl, A Boy Bathing In the River, Two Young Men On the Bank.
- George - An artist, but one who spends more time massaging potential sources of commissions than his predecessor.
- Marie - Dot's daughter by the first Georges, now old and wheelchair-bound.
- Bob Greenberg - A museum director, preoccupied keeping up with the new.
- Naomi Eisen - Composer of the music for Georges' Chromolume presentations
- Blair Daniels - An art critic who once championed George but now thinks he's just repeating himself.
- Harriet Pawling - A wealthy patron of the arts.
- Elaine - Georges' ex-wife.
- Billy Webster - A friend of Harriet's.
- Lee Randolph - The museum's publicist.
- Dennis - A technician at the museum.
- Betty and Alex - Other artists.
- Charles Redmond - A visiting curator of the County commissions to dispense.
A Photographer, A Museum Assistant and A Waitress.
REED 1 - Piccolo, Flute, Cor Anglais, Soprano Sax, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet
REED II - Piccolo, Flute, Oboe, Cor Anglais, Alto Sax, Clarinet
HORN (Bb and F)
PIANO db. CELESTA
RCA VICTOR RD 85042 Original Cast