In late 20th century musical theatre, few moments resonate more gloriously than the Act One finale of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s “Sunday in the Park with George.” Painter Georges Seurat intones his mantra of “Order, design, tension, balance, harmony.” The characters gather into a tableau vivant of his pointillist masterwork, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," which we have watched him painstakingly put together dot by radiant dot.
Glorious, too, describes the Short North Stage production of the 1983 musical, under the direction of Lapine’s niece Sarna Lapine, with musical direction by Nils-Petter Ankarblom.
Matt Clemens gives Georges a delicate balance of artistic distance and whimsical engagement, particularly as he converses with the dogs in his painting in “The Day Off.” Laura Griffith makes for an engaging and mischievous Dot, Georges’ model and mistress. The two blend voices powerfully in Sondheim’s often bittersweet harmonies. Columbus stage veteran Linda Dorff showcases her own voice as Georges’ doddering mother in “Beautiful,” a wistful duet with Clemens.
Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams’ modular set extends the imagery of Seurat’s painting in parts of the first act and transforms into a modern museum for the second. Terese Wadden’s costumes evoke those of the painting and, during the title song, even provide a delightful little surprise for those who haven’t previously seen the play.
With its off-stage but on-the-money six-piece orchestra, Short North Stage has given Columbus a “Sunday in the Park with George” you might call picture perfect.
Caption: Matt Clemens (as the artist Georges Seurat, left) poses with Laura Griffith (as his mistress Dot, right) in Short North Stage’s production of Sunday in the Park with George.]