Categories: Arts

Foothill thrills with Sondheim’s ‘Sunday in the Park with George'

Foothill Music Theatre’s production of Stephen Sondheim's big, complex, challenging 1984 musical “Sunday in the Park with George” sparkles like a diamond in the 175-seat black box Lohman Theatre in Los Altos Hills.

While numerous Sondheim musicals, such as “Into the Woods,” often fare better in intimate, community or college theater settings than on Broadway, that’s not necessarily true for “Sunday in the Park,” which requires special staging to bring to life Georges Seurat's 1884 large pointillistic painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”

Yet Milissa Carey’s straightforward and flawless direction realizes the play's potential, and even brings out the semi-hidden emotional content underlying its intellectual framework.

Sondheim's Seurat defines the challenge for the artist, to “bring order to the whole,” and that’s what this show does. Carey, choreographer Amanda Folena, the large cast, the musicians and production crew find success, as Seurat says, “through design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony.”

On Broadway, Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters famously originated the roles of George and Dot, Seurat’s long-suffering mistress and model. Both were marvelous.

Displaying the talent of big-time professionals, Foothill's Tyer Bennett and Katie Nix are even more believable in the parts.

Bennett, who doesn’t have Patinkin's manic energy, makes the character realistic, as does the sensational Nix, who makes contact with the audience and has a beautiful, well-controlled voice. (Amplification is not intrusive, but is it really necessary in such a small venue?)

As Seurat himself would want, the ensemble of about two dozen performs in “balance and harmony.”

Dolores Duran-Cefalu at the keyboard leads a hidden eight-piece orchestra, which mostly provides fine accompaniment, despite a bit of insecurity in the brass.

Theater lovers really shouldn’t miss an opportunity to see a peerless production of this rarely performed show. As the musical’s final, encouraging words go, fans will experience “so many possibilities.”

REVIEW

Sunday in the Park with George

Presented by Foothill Music Theatre

Where: Lohman Theatre, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes March 8

Tickets: $12 to $32

Contact: (650) 949-7360, www.foothillmusicals.com

SF Examiner

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