It’s spring musical time at area schools and colleges, and one of the first out of the gate is Marywood University’s music, theatre and dance department, which has accepted the challenge of “Sunday in the Park with George.” There will be performances on Friday and Saturday, March 2-3, at 7:30 p.m., in the Sette LaVerghetta Center for Performing Arts at the University.
“Sunday in the Park with George” features music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The first act presents the struggle of 19th century French pointillist painter Georges Seurat as he labors over his most famous painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” Consumed by his need for creative fulfillment, Seurat alienates the French public, spurns his fellow artists and neglects his lover, Dot, not realizing that his actions will reverberate over the next 100 years. Act II flash-forwards to the 20th century, and Seurat’s grandson, also named George, is having his own struggle with the art world.
The musical won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for drama, two Tony Awards for design (and a nomination for Best Musical), numerous Drama Desk awards, the 1991 Olivier Award for best musical and the 2007 Olivier Award for outstanding musical production. More recently it was revived in 2005-06 UK production, and return to Broadway in 2008.
According to Charles Gordon, director of theater at the university, the play was selected because it was a challenge.
“Department co-chair and music director Dr. Rick Hoffenberg approached me in the spring of 2017 about doing a musical that had a more classical feel,” he said. “In order to contribute to a broader educational scope for our musical theatre majors, as well as our vocal performance majors, we agreed that a musical with a more classically oriented score would be a welcome change of pace. At the end of the day, it was something that we knew, when we chose it, would be a challenge for us, our students and our production team. It is our mutual belief that higher education should constantly be challenging our students and staff rather than working within the comfort of what we know we can successfully achieve.”
The show has music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, whose complex and well-known works include “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Company,” “Sweeney Todd,” and “Into the Woods.” His music is notoriously complex.
“Fortunately, I am blessed with extraordinarily accomplished colleagues and an eager, inquisitive and talented company of performers and technicians who, likewise, appreciate the challenge that the material offers and who are willing to dive into the material head first,” Grodon said. Every single element of it is a challenge. The characters are complex, the music is unpredictable and the design challenges are, at times, overwhelming. George and Dot are tour-de-force roles for performers demanding wide ranges in their vocal abilities as well as being emotionally draining characters to portray.”
Gordon said the university’s drama program has truly stretched itself with this production.
“I hope people truly enjoy seeing it.”
Ticket prices are $10; $8 for senior citizens, $6 for students, and free for IHM Sisters or those with a valid Marywood ID. Credit card purchases can be made by visiting marywood.universitytickets.com/w/default.aspx. Cash or check purchases can be made at the box office the evening of the performance. For additional information about the performance, visit marywood.edu/mtd/, or call 570-348-6268, ext. 6097.