Sunday in the Park with George @ the Hudson
It was nice that I could sigh and cry in unison with the bow-tied gentleman sitting beside me. I think we both felt the experience belonged to us individually (i.e., you can't possibly love Sondheim as much as I love Sondheim) yet needed to be shared with a sympathetic, like-minded stranger (i.e., there is no such competition). My Sondheim is as specific to me as his was to him and as yours is to you (if in fact you have a Sondheim?): they are one and the same person but we define that person by the singular meaning his work has for us. I have weighted mine down with the sum total of all my sense memories over decades and years and hours and dollars and tickets and miles, and he belongs to me alone. I couldn't share him with another soul if I wanted to.
Sunday in the Park with George is one of my top 3 favorite Sondheim shows but I did not care for the last Broadway revival, which seemed cold and pinched and brown, somehow. I was sad for all the wrong reasons. This is not a show that needs help being "serious": it needs flesh and blood and heat. Here we get all three from the scruffy puppy dog central presence of Jake Gyllenhaal (sorry, but it's in that beard, it's in those eyes), whose dreamy, far-off nature feels more innate than calculated: what he wants he cannot say; what he feels, he cannot give. It goes onto paper, it goes into canvas. Dot (Dot! DOT!) can only wait so long, and Annaleigh Ashford is everything too much all at once: too smart, too needy, too passionate, too pragmatic. She's delightful. She's also the second actress I've seen in the role who I preferred as Marie in the second act (the first would be Audra McDonald): that song "Children and Art" has become precious to me, and when she's being wheeled off the stage at the end of it, and she turns one last time and says "Goodbye, Mama" as she waves up at the painting, well... both my seatmate and I nearly collapsed into the aisle.
From the minimal staging to the overeager Celestes and the perfect pitch and glorious sway of the onstage orchestra, the whole thing felt loose and comfortable—maybe the fact that it's not competing for Tonys released them having to make it feel "Important." It's Sunday in the Park with George! It already is important! But how much better when it's filled with light and just allowed to sing.