You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Broadway Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Sunday in the Park With George’

Jake Gyllenhaal, Annaleigh Ashford, Robert Sean Leonard, Penny Fuller, Philip Boykin

A concert staging at City Center last fall of Stephen Sondheim’s 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “Sunday in the Park With George” went swimmingly, with Jake Gyllenhaal in the titular role of Georges Seurat, raising hopes for an extended engagement. The theater gods heard, and the re-mounted show is back for a commercial run in one of Broadway’s historic jewels, the newly restored Hudson Theater. Under the direction of Sarna Lapine, the staging is more theatrically structured than it was at City Center, with its stools and lecterns. But even as retooled, the show retains the quality of serene simplicity that heightens the poignant beauty of the score. Gyllenhaal returns in the leading role, his acting chops intact, but his voice refreshed and enhanced by what must have been professional coaching.

Gyllenhaal (who previously appeared on Broadway in “Constellations”) passionately commits himself to “Color and Light,” the dazzling number that illustrates the Pointillist painter’s obsessive commitment to his innovative art. Color and light, order and design, composition and symmetry, and a certain ineffable “tone” infuse the song, the show, and Seurat’s art work with those ephemeral qualities that we identify as Beauty.

In the same vein, “Finishing the Hat” is a testament to the artist’s fanatical devotion to his work. It falls to Annaleigh Ashford, in stunning voice and quite enchanting as Dot, the artist’s long-suffering mistress and model, to put into the words of the title song both the languid pleasure and the creative tension of spending a day of leisure with an obsessive artist like Seurat. If it weren’t for Gyllenhaal’s inherent charm and the affection of Ashford’s doting Dot, the artist’s commitment to his art (“I cannot look up from my pad”) might not compensate for his overwhelming self-absorption.

The inventive staging reflects both the form and feeling of Seurat’s artistic style. In concert with Beowulf Boritt’s set designs, Tal Yarden’s projections first deconstruct and then re-assemble “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” from Sondheim’s playful musical portrayals of the mute models captured on the artist’s canvas.

From nothing more than painted figures, Sondheim and book writer James Lapine imagine a complex relationship between George and his mistress, most poignantly in “We Do Not Belong Together” and the wrenching “Move On.” The rugged boatman gazing into the water comes alive in Philip Boykin’s boisterous portrayal, as do the two soldiers, the two nursemaids, and the old lady and her caretaker, who all step out of the canvas to share their feelings (in “The Day Off”) about this lovely Sunday in the park.

There are no little people in this intricate canvas: Robert Sean Leonard cuts an elegant figure as a man about town; Liz McCartney and Brooks Ashmanskas are amusing as a couple with more money than taste; and Penny Fuller makes a feisty old lady. They come and go and, one by one, make themselves at home in Seurat’s mind, as he imagines them on a beautiful Sunday on La Grande Jatte.

Broadway Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Sunday in the Park With George'

Hudson Theater; 957 seats; $169 top. Opened Feb. 23, 2017. Reviewed Feb. 22. Running time:  TWO HOURS, 3O MIN.

Production: An Ambassador Theater Group, Carole Shorenstein Hays, Caiola Productions, Jeffrey Finn, Jere Harris & Darren Deverna, J/K/R/S, Claire-Bridget Kenwright, LD Entertainment, Benjamin Lowy & Adrian Salpeter, Tulchin Bartner Productions, Jeanine Tesori, and Riva Marker presentation of the New York City Center production of a musical in two acts with book by James Lapine and music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Creative: Directed by Sarna Lapine. Musical staging by Ann Yee, music director, Chris Fenwick. Sets, Beowulf Boritt; projections, Tal Yarden; costumes, Clint Ramos; lighting, Ken Billington; sound, Kai Harada; orchestrations, Michael Starobin.

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Annaleigh Ashford, Robert Sean Leonard, Penny Fuller, Philip Boykin

More Legit

  • Clueless review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Clueless' the Musical

    How does a musical stage adaptation of Amy Heckerling’s 1995 film comedy of oblivious privileged teens, “Clueless,” play in the era of female empowerment and millennial engagement? True, the principal skills of lead teen Cher Horowitz are the superficial ones of mall shopping and makeovers. But her sweet spirit and independence, plus some added P.C. relevance, [...]

  • Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary,

    Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary, 'Hugo Cabret' Musical

    Producers Tim Headington and Theresa Steele Page have unveiled Ley Line Entertainment with a Brian Wilson documentary and a “Hugo Cabret” musical in the works. Ley Line said it’s a content development, production, and financing company with projects spanning film, television, stage, and music. Headington financed and produced “The Young Victoria,” “Argo,” “Hugo,” and “World [...]

  • Daniel Radcliffe

    Listen: How Broadway Made Daniel Radcliffe a Better Actor

    Acting onstage has been a regular part of Daniel Radcliffe’s career for more than a decade — and the “Harry Potter” star says there’s a good reason for that: It’s made him better. “It gives me a lot of confidence as an actor, which is not always something that I’ve felt,” Radcliffe said on the [...]

  • The Jungle review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Jungle'

    With the rumbling of semis careening by and the sound of Middle Eastern music in the distance, “The Jungle” aims to vividly immerse audiences into the world of the real-life migrant and refugee camp of the same name. By telling the story of the Jungle’s creation in Calais, France, in 2015, and its eventual destruction [...]

  • Hillary Clinton'Network' play opening night, New

    Hillary Clinton Attends Opening of Broadway's 'Network'

    A 1976 film might not be expected to translate seamlessly to Broadway in 2018, but for the cast and creative team behind “Network,” which premiered Thursday night with Hillary Clinton in the audience, the story still feels uncomfortably close to home. “It was a satire then, and now it’s documentary realism,” said Lee Hall, who [...]

  • 'Network' Review: Bryan Cranston Stars on

    Broadway Review: 'Network' With Bryan Cranston

    The 1976 film “Network” won four Academy Awards, including best original screenplay for writer Paddy Chayefsky, for its blistering portrayal of an American society fueled by greed and bloated on corruption. A haggard Peter Finch took the best actor trophy for his harrowing performance as Howard Beale, a TV newsman who is so disgusted by [...]

  • Faye DunawayVanity Fair Oscar Party, Arrivals,

    Faye Dunaway to Play Katharine Hepburn on Broadway

    Faye Dunaway will return to Broadway to play another acting diva. The Oscar-winner is set to portray Katharine Hepburn in “Tea at Five,” a one-woman play that charts the movie legend’s career over the course of a winding monologue. Dunaway last appeared on Broadway in 1982’s “The Curse of the Aching Heart.” In the 1990s, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content