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SJU Theater Company’s Fall Musical Paints the Picture of Art and Love – The Hawk Newspaper

Art is not easy.

But the SJU Theater Company makes it look like child’s play in its fall musical, a powerful production of “Sunday in the Park with George.”

“Sunday in the Park with George”, with lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine, is about what it’s like to be an artist – the passion, the struggle, the consequences – what no matter what period you are in or what medium you are using.

Act 1 of the musical is set in the mid-1880s just outside Paris and follows George Seurat, played by Giacomo Badalamenti ’24, over a few Sundays of his life as he paints visitors in a local park. George is extremely dedicated to his work, using groundbreaking techniques in his paintings, but balancing his art and personal relationships is difficult.

Act 2 jumps 100 years into the future, now following George’s great-grandson, also named George. This young George parallels his great-grandfather in many ways, struggling with his own creativity and his relationships with himself and those around him.

The musical is inspired by the real painter of the 1800s, Georges Seurat, whose painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” is the very painting George is working on in Act 1. The painting is currently at the Art Institute of Chicago. .

According to Renee Dobson, MFA, associate professor of theater and artistic director of the Bluett Theater, this musical was chosen not only because of its message, but also as a way to honor the memory of Sondheim, who died in November 2021.

“He’s considered pretty much the greatest musical theater composer-lyricist of the 20th century and beyond,” Dobson said. “So we wanted to do something in his honor.”

Of the many shows Sondheim wrote, this one was specifically chosen because “in a way, it’s his seminal work” and because of the way it “talks about the challenges of being an artist”, according to Dobson. It is also Sondheim’s only work to win a Pulitzer Prize and one of only 10 musicals to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Ava Smith ’25, who plays Dot in Act 1 and Marie in Act 2, said performing this show is one of the best ways for SJU Theater Company to honor Sondheim.

“It’s absolutely [Sondheim’s] best job,” Smith said. “I think what he really wanted was to have his shows featured, so it’s a really meaningful tribute to put on his best show and remember his legacy.”

For Smith as well as Juliet Gentilucci ’24, who plays Yvonne and Naomi, and Jaspar Albright ’23, who plays Jules and Bob Greenberg, the hardest part of the show is the music, the lyrics and the beat. This is clear even watching the show, from the complicated, fast-sung phrases in the title track at the start of the show to the difficult individual voices that intersect in “Move On” near the end of Act 2.

The cast said the best part was the close relationship that formed between the actors.

“We’ve all become very close and connected through this work because we all know how important it is and how important the messages are,” Gentilucci said. “So just bonding was just a special part. And it was easy to do it with them because they’re all great.

The entire cast reunites onstage during the Act 1 finale to recreate Georges Seurat’s famous painting before a giant replica of the painting slides from the ceiling, remaining there for the duration of the intermission. According to Dobson, the costumes for the SJU Theater Company production were carefully designed to closely match the outfits in the painting, with some pieces even being handmade by costume designer Tina Heinze.

For Albright, “Sunday in the Park with George” is relevant today, especially for artists like him who can see their own struggles and lives reflected in the show.

“I think it’s very important because of how it captures the beauty of the natural world and in terms of the relationship of human beings to art,” Albright said. “And not just visual art, [also] in music, in poetry. It’s very meaningful in the way it presents the importance of art itself and the importance and dedication of the people who create art.

“Sunday in the Park with George” runs Nov. 11-12 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased 24 hours in advance via email and Venmo or same-day cash or check only.