Sunday in the Park with George at Kensington Arts Theatre

I left the opening night of Sunday in the Park with Georgevery proud on Friday evening … proud of KAT for staging this challenging production … proud of Director Craig Pettinati and his talented cast and crew … proud of Music Director David Rohde and his ten member orchestra for taking on Sondheim’s clever and tricky score, and proud of Producer Malca Giblin for bringing this delightful production to our community.

The cast of ‘Sunday in the Park with George.’ Phot by Ernie Achenbach.

Sunday in the Park with George, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, is inspired by the painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat. Its story centers on the strained and conflicted relationships that exist between Seurat, his lover Dot, and others (many of whom are the human subjects in his painting), during the time of his single-minded and all-consuming focus on painting his masterpiece.

Farrell Parker (Dot). Photo by Ernie Achenbach.

I absolutely love Farrell Parker, who makes her DC area debut playing the role of George Seurat’s mistress, Dot. Parker, a talented singer and actress, is well-suited to this role. Her comedic timing, combined with her ability to express the conflicted feelings of love, frustration, and anger felt by a character involved with a man who, for right or for wrong put his art before her, makes her very fun to watch. She clearly rises to the challenges of Sondheim’s score, with its tricky rhythms and quirky intervals mirroring Seurat’s painting technique. Ms. Parker is the highlight of the show, and I expect to see much more of this very impressive young lady.

Ryan Burke as George. Photo by Ernie Achenbach.

Ryan Burke is another young talent to watch. It’s really hard to think of this young actor as one and the same with the complex and older character he portrays in this show. He has a realness about him that draws the audience in. I think what I may enjoy about him the most is that it is easy to forget that he is acting or singing. This said, I look forward to seeing more emotional depth from Ryan as he matures personally and professionally.

One of the reasons I enjoy KAT productions is that their shows tend to be well cast across the entire ensemble, as is the case with this production. With all of the actors performing one role in the first act, and another in the second, which takes place many years later in time, everybody has opportunity to shine. While there are periodic issues with intonation, overall the vocals are strong throughout the show.

David Rohde and his ten piece orchestra have their work cut out for them with Sondheim’s score and its difficult orchestrations, and they rise to the challenge throughout the show. I truly enjoyed their performance, and in fact would prefer to be able to see them as they play.

The costuming, scene design, and painting design are important parts of this production, as all are directly tied to a painting that is known by many. Eleanor Dicks does a superb job with costumes as does Matt Karner with scenic and painting design. I liked the lighting design, but wish that it could come from the opposite direction so that the reflection of the projector would be less obvious.

The cast of ‘Sunday in the Park with George.’ Photo by Ernie Achenbach.

The Sunday in the Park with George cast members include Ryan Burke, Farrell Parker, Karen Fleming, Andrea Spitz, Russell Silber, Jimmy Payne, Carmel Ferrer, Talia Brenner, Casey Jones, Stephen Yednock, Diana Rodriguez, Erika Abrams, Lisa Gullickson, Wade Corder, Eric Jones, and Patrick McMahan. They are all talented and a well-balanced cast, and all are to be congratulated.

Don’t miss this splendid production of  Stephen Sondheim’s beautiful musical.

Sunday in the Park with George plays through March 3, 2012, at Kensington Arts Theatre in The Kensington Town Center - 3710 Mitchell Street, in Kensington, MD. For tickets, call (206) 888-6642, or purchase them online.