Sunday in the Park with George

My favorite musical, Sunday in the Park with George tells a fictionalized account of the life of artist Georges Seurat as he works to complete his masterpiece, Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte). The play explores Seurat’s isolation—both as an artist and as an individual—as his radical new style of painting (pointillism) is misunderstood by his peers and as his detached and obsessive nature perturbs those around him and pushes away those few who care for and understand him.

The second act of the show skips ahead one-hundred years to the 1980s and focuses on Seurat’s (fictional) great-grandson—also named George. George, who makes his living as an artist/inventor of massive, light & sound based sculptures, faces similar problems as his great-grandfather did in Act One. He is divorced, his work is derivative and uninspired, his family tree is nearly dead, and his collaborators are leaving him for new opportunities. It is only through reconnecting with his family history—with the life and work of his great-grandfather—that George seems to begin to find his way again as the show closes.

Since discovering this musical last spring, I have become absolutely enamored with it. I listen to the original Broadway cast album multiple times per week, sing the songs in the shower, and frequently think back to images and themes from the show that struck a chord with me and continue to resonate in my daily life. The show is a wonderful rumination on obsession, vulnerability, and what ultimately brings beauty to both life and art. A professionally recorded version of the original Broadway production can be found online fairly easily, and I highly suggest giving it a watch. (I won’t post a link here, since the legality/ethics of this are… gray.) This clip from that particular recording showcases Mandy Patinkin singing my favorite number from the show, “Finishing the Hat.”

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