Tuesday, November 10, 2015

reviews - SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE - Fountain Hills Theater

the cast of Sunday in the Park with George
photo by Patty Torrilhon 
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through November 22nd.

 "Based on renowned impressionist painter Georges Seurat and his pointillist masterpiece "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," the musical Sunday in the Park with George includes one of Stephen Sondheim's most challenging and rewarding scores. It is therefore a difficult show to produce. Fortunately, Fountain Hills Theater's production of this Pulitzer Prize winning musical features a stellar performance from Kyle Bennett as George and clear, thought out direction that results in a deeply moving tale of the struggle that artists go through to connect with the people around them.....In act one, set in 1880s France, we find Seurat obsessed with the creation of "La Grande Jatte" and meet many of the characters who are found in that painting. Foremost is Dot, George's mistress ...Act two is set one hundred years later in 1980s Chicago where George and Dot's great grandson, also named George, finds himself in the same dilemma as Seurat...Kyle Bennett is impressive as both Georges, with a strong, clear voice and a deep connection to the character. ...It is a well thought out, cleanly acted and exceptionally sung portrayal of these two men who are very different on the surface, yet share many similar traits underneath.  Debra Qualtire is quite good as both Dot and Marie, two very different roles. Dot wants to force George out of the studio and to care less about his work to be a part of the world, while Marie wants her grandson to leave the nagging business side of the art world behind and get back to his work, which she knows is his passion. ...Director Damon J. Bolling does much with the very small space. He uses several large white panels and a scrim to project both Seurat's painting of the park and the 1980s contemporary computerized homage to it...While it may be a modest solution it still achieves the end result of blending the actor with the painting and the past with the present....However, the small Fountain Hills space provides both negative and positive aspects. While it doesn't clearly give Bolling the ability to portray the way the painting comes together, since there is so little space for George to navigate the individuals, the intimacy of the space does allow the audience to connect with the characters in a way you can't get from a larger venue...Music director Jennifer Whiting achieves a rich sound from both the seven-piece orchestra and the cast, including a deeply moving version of "Sunday" that will most likely find you holding back tears. Sunday in the Park with George is a musical that some people find difficult to like while others believe it to be Sondheim's masterpiece....One thing is clear; while it is a show basically about the art of making art it is also a musical about the painful and joyful truths about life and how love and relationships help in the creation process. While Fountain Hills' staging may be fairly minimal, the result is an ultimately moving production that allows these themes and messages to come through clearly...."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"...Stephen Sondheim ... turned his inspiration into a masterpiece ... ~ SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE. Among its many honors, the musical, which opened on Broadway in 1984, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It is fair to say that it is no walk in the park to mount this production, given the staging's technical requirements and complex blocking. It is an ambitious undertaking for which Fountain Hills Theater has more than met the challenge. With superb direction by Damon J. Bolling and an extraordinary collaboration among the designers ...the company's modest stage becomes a luminous canvas on which Seurat's characters come to life and, turn by turn, reveal the artist's moments of angst and ecstasy. The cast in this production is glorious, and standing at its center is Kyle Bennett whose portrayal of Seurat is breathtaking. His powerhouse voice is like a fountain, pouring songs forth seemingly effortlessly. ...Sondheim structured the play in two acts, setting the scenes a century apart. Act I focuses on Seurat's quest in 1884 to refine his artistic vision and his amour with his aptly named model, Dot (stunningly and poignantly played by Debra Qualtire). ...In Act II, Dot's granddaughter Marie (Qualtire...) and great-grandson George (Bennett...) are preparing a perspective at the Art Institute on Seurat's art, featuring a light machine called "Chromolume #7". It is 1984, and the introduction of innovation in either art or technology is no less difficult than it was a hundred years earlier. Young George, like his ancestor, is seeking the center that holds and the connection that fulfills. It is every artist's dilemma. The resolution, at plays end, is emotionally powerful and moving.  SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE is a magical mix of poignant moments, wit and whimsical imaginings, and drama. FHT's cast stirs this mix with precision, and the result is a blend very worth the tasting..."  -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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