Last night on Broadway at “Sunday in the Park with George” was also the first night of selling merch for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Co-star Annaleigh Ashford– so great as Dot, and then Dot’s granddaughter–took the mic after a standing ovation at the show’s conclusion. “These drawings made by our big deal movie star”– meaning Jake Gyllenhaal– “will be on sale outside for $500.”
Not missing a beat– Gyllenhaal, who was on stage signing the drawings he allegedly created as artist Georges Seurat (but resembling nothing like a Seuratt)–grimaced and said aloud, “A thousand dollars!” Ashford, who was adlibbing and getting laughs, then added the audience could buy them “for a million dollars.” She added: “This is obviously the first time we’re doing this!”
It’s not the first time they’ve done the show, however. This “Sunday” started as a two night run off Broadway last year. Now it’s back for a longer but limited run that ends April 23rd and won’t be considered for the Tony Awards. (That’s because the producers don’t want to give freebies to Tony voters, etc.) It’s too bad, because “Sunday” could give “Hello, Dolly!” a run for their money in musical revival. It’s that good.
Jake Gyllenhaal is not a name you associate with Broadway musicals, but it turns out he could be our next Jerry Orbach– or even Mandy Patinkin, who originated the role of Seurat in 1984. He can sing more than reasonably well. If he weren’t in this Sondheim show, he’d make a great Anthony in “Sweeney Todd.” As Seurat, he projects a tortured artist (who was probably autistic or “on the spectrum”) obsessed with his work, contemptuous of rivals, and neglectful of loved ones. Hello, Picasso!
“Sunday in the Park” is a tricky Sondhein show. The first act is a glistening complete gem. Last night it was actually thrilling as the Seurat painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” came together on stage. You could leave after Act 1 and have seen a perfect musical comprising sophisticated ideas, a gorgeous score, and wonderfully executed performances.
In addition to Gyllenhaal and Ashford, there’s also Penny Fuller as Seurat’s disapproving mother, Robert Sean Leonard as a wealthy more successful painter, and Tony winner Ruthie Ann Miles– stuck in supporting supporting–singing her guts out. (You can her clearly. She’s a star.)
The second act is superb, too, especially the beginning. But it’s a bit of a letdown after you’ve experienced perfection. Still, Gyllenhaal and Ashford get to shed their 1886 personas, and “Putting it Together” remains a Sondheim classic.
The Hudson Theater is being touted as “newly renovated.” It’s very nice, but it’s mostly the same as it’s been the last few years– maybe with nicer seats. PBS used it as a place to do “Downtown Abbey” screenings each new season before it became an official Broadway house. The bartenders are still getting used to the pace of returning the audiences to their seats before curtain call.