Sunday in the Park with George: A Musical Masterpiece

“The challenge: bring order to the whole.” Challenge accepted.

UMMTA has bravely approached the genius composer, Sondheim, with Sunday in the Park with George. Inspired by Georges Seurat’s painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, the musical takes place in both the months preceding the painting during 1884, Paris, and in an Art Museum in America, 1984. Seurat and later his grandson, also George, struggle to effectively express their art. Themes of change, values, family, relationships, time and legacy battle between both artists and the cultures they live in. Themes that only the finest of young Melbourne artists could successfully portray.

Ryan Bentley plays the Georges of 1884. His voice is the most resonant I have witnessed in an amateur theatre company. Further use of softer dynamics would compliment his voice exquisitely. Every line spoken has evidently been undertaken with analysis. Once a character has been wonderfully developed, it is important for the actor to remind themselves of fundamental basics; I encourage Bentley to reconsider his use of articulation during dialogue. Otherwise, an incredible interpretation of Georges with captivating insight into his artistic mind. I look forward to seeing his direction of Godspell with the Newman Theatre Company later this year. Olivia Gould also gives a delightful performance as Dot. The lover of Georges develops throughout the play, from being a short-tempered mistress to a grateful, concentrated woman with poise, understanding and direction. Gould portrays these changes well and with convincing chemistry. Her voice is charming, although it could resound further with more open, pure vowels. My congratulations go out to her, especially on singing the extraordinarily fast opening in a corset. Finally, Dan Czech’s portrayal of George of 1984 is excellent. Czech’s facial expressions towards the audience deliver perfect insight into his anxious mindset. A few flat notes on the night, but overall a very engaging performance.

Supporting leads were brilliantly cast. Each approached their character with a balance of comic timing and seriousness. Actors should continue in their animation, however, even whilst in a stilled position through posture and facial expression. Despite this, the ensemble numbers were the highlights of the show. “Perfection, balance, tone, harmony” and a range of dynamics combined to paint a masterpiece in heaven. Sunday was breathtaking.

Lachie Bagnara, a first-time musical director, deserves a thunderous applause. With the intricate timing of Sondheim under his belt, it would be wonderful to now hear him and the orchestra have fun! The instrumentation of Sondheim surges with imagery, particularly in a musical about an image. Don’t be afraid of dynamics!

Creating a “blank canvas” on the stage with minimal use of sets and the artwork being ‘painted’ on the projected wall works effectively for this production. The production was well directed, although dramatic pauses should be approached cautiously, and avoid being too long.

Overall, Sunday in the Park with George is a wonderful production by an extremely talented cast, band, crew and directorial team. Congratulations to all involved.

“The challenge: bring order to the whole.” Mission accomplished.

Rebecca Fullerton

UMMTA’s Sunday in the Park with George runs from May 5th-13th at the Union House Theatre

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