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Review: Sunday in the Park with George

After watching this spectacle of a musical, you’ll be wishing every day was Sunday


Musicals are usually incredibly polished and engaging pieces at the ADC, but I think they really peaked in last night’s production of Sunday in the Park with George. Visually stunning with fantastic music, the play follows the life of Georges Seurat and his art throughout history. Director Dylan Evans‘ vision is an utter triumph; an unbelievably impressive performance.

Image credits: Paul Ashley

This begins with the incredible musical aspects: I cannot emphasise enough how much I was impressed by the vocal performance throughout this production, which maintained a high standard from beginning to end, a credit to the work of musical directors Bolin Dai and Jonathan Parapadakis. And this was no easy task, as the songs’ overlapping elements combined with rapid outbursts of song always felt precise and never rushed. If the cast did face any challenges when working with such intense material, it did not show at all, which is a testament to the work that went into this show to make even the most complex passages of song seem effortless and crystal-clear.

Of course, when mentioning the music, particular credit has to be given to the two lead characters, Eoin McCaul as the titular George and Annie Stedman as Dot/Marie. All the vocal performances felt incredibly professional, and these two are no exception to this as George’s warm, almost Josh Groban-esque tones matched perfectly with the power and clarity of Dot’s. As well as this, I feel that it is necessary to praise the way in which they are able to balance hilarious pieces such as a song in which George monologues for a dog with absolute tear-jerkers that come in songs about moving on and the classic ‘Sunday’ refrain.

Image credits: Paul Ashley

And of course, this is paired with incredible acting, where George’s absorption in his world of art and unconditional love for this is balanced with Dot and Marie’s collective admiration for him. The transition from late 19th-century France to modern-day America was conveyed with an apt level of shock factor, which meant that this switch was surprising and intriguing rather than needlessly incongruous. Annie’s ability in particular to embody such contrasting characters was very skilful, and on the whole, the cast seemed to really come into their roles as capitalist Americans to marry with their skills in portraying a judgemental and petty French society.

What was particularly enchanting was the way in which, despite the gargantuan cast, I was invested in each individual plotline of the characters. The somewhat lack of an active plot was salved by a set of simply delightful tableaux-like scenes, which really made it feel like we were moving through the painting along with the characters, making the projections of paintings over these still-life moments all the more poignant.

Image credits: Paul Ashley

What was particularly enchanting was the way in which, despite the gargantuan cast, I was invested in each individual plotline of the characters. The somewhat lack of an active plot was salved by a set of simply delightful tableaux-like scenes, which really made it feel like we were moving through the painting along with the characters, making the projections of paintings over these still-life moments all the more poignant.

Image credits: Paul Ashley

The best humour came from hilarious moments of tension such as those characterised by the two Celestes, Isabel May and  Kate Caspari, whose fanciful attempts at flirting with stoic soldier Hugo Robijns are marked by a pettiness and frivolity that had us bursting at the seams with laughter. This was also partially due to a painted cut-out of a soldier which Hugo was seen having deep and animated conversations with – brilliant.

The campy Germans Hugo Gregg and Jas Ratchford added greatly to a general hilarity, with accents that induce joy even in my memory (also with special mention to Dennis, a nerdy favourite from the modern section). And speaking of so many ‘Hugo’s, Hugo Williamson‘s portrayal of Louis the baker was absolutely loveable and charming, with that winning sweet simplicity. This is supported by Theo Chen as an audaciously funny American tourist and Xiaoyao Luo‘s reliable ensemble presence.

Image credits: Paul Ashley

Despite already having said so much, the set must of course be mentioned. I adored the use of pointillist cut-outs to represent the different elements of the painting, which again added to a sense that characters were actually moving in the painting. The use of the projection was also incredibly well done, used at beautifully striking moments.

As well as this, details such as life-sized cut-outs of George, pyrotechnics and a sheet canvas through which we can see George painting added to an atmosphere that helped to immerse not only the audience but also the cast, whose business and stage presence was always accurately choreographed. This was also a success in terms of the bold costumes of the characters, which further vivified the painting.

Image credits: Paul Ashley

All in all, this play encompasses so much in terms of character, stage, spectacle and song, so much so that it is difficult to express it all. The cast of Sunday in the Park with George collaboratively is able to create spectacular art from a literal blank canvas, playing with colour and light to bring us a masterpiece. If you’re not already planning on seeing this play, there is still time to be moved to tears and have your stomach hurt with laughter at this fantastic production.

5/5

Sunday in the Park with George is showing on the 7th – 11th of February at 7:45 pm with a matinee at 2:30 pm on the 11th of February at the ADC Theatre. Book your tickets here.