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Monday
May282012

COMMENTARY: COLOR AND LIGHT CONNECT TO SEURAT’S ART AT THE SKYLIGHT

The blank page, canvas or even the stage confronts a possibility. Possibilities described through a musical written by the award winning team of composer Stephen Sondheim and  James Lapine. Possibilities to create art, pictured through the eyes of painter Georges Seurat in the team’s Pulitzer Prize winning drama Sunday in the Park with George that closes the Skylight Music Theatre’s 2011-2012 season.

Sunday in the Park with George fictionalizes the account of neo-impressionist artist Seurat and his struggles to complete his grand scale masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette. The painting places “flickers of color and light” together by using tiny dots of different hued paint (renamed pointillism) so the eye optically creates another color when seeing separate dots. By this distinct mingling of art and science, the minute dots reassemble into a discernable image and portray the people who lingered in the Paris Park on Sunday afternoons.  

Seurat claimed the dots merged into “what the eye arranges beautifully.” Sondheim does this musically by transforming Seurat’s color and light into innovative theater. The Skylight indeed unveils a visually stunning production honoring his paintings from the 1880's through Van Santvoord’s impressive sets, which breathe life into Seurat’s artwork for the audience. Similar to Shima Orans’ bustled, confection colored period costumes. Or Milwaukee’s Jason Fassl, who dazzles audiences in the second act with a light show that represents a legacy to the acclaimed painter through the work of his distant grandson. Musical Director Richard Carsey and Conductor Jamie Johns also accompany the evocative performance with an eight-piece orchestra. 

Gifted Broadway actor Sean Allan Krill plays Georges and his progeny to emotionally capture the enigmatic life of an artist. How an artist’s love and passion conflicts with his personal life and meaningful relationships, often leading to social isolation. Seurat’s mistress Dot reflects another conflict, carried out on stage by the compelling Alison Mary Forbes in a memorable career role. While Dot admires and loves Georges, her alliance with the likeable Louis the Baker played by Tommy Hahn promises her attention and security. To provide a dependable father for Seurat’s baby waiting to be born.

Sondheim and Lapine change the historical dynamics to grant the audience a glimpse of 20th century art. While Seurat’s renowned masterpiece now hangs in a prestigious collection of late 19th century paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, his son birthed by his mistress died shortly after Seurat did, two lives cut tragically short. Sondheim gives the audience Seurat’s daughter Marie so the creative lineage continues while the lyrical wit and wordplay connect in the number Putting It Together, or The Art of Making Art. 

Any actor, artist, choreographer, composer or writer understands these dilemmas Sondheim discusses with sublime theatrics. The complex sacrifices and dedication required to completing a project in this decade, financial and otherwise, includes obsessing over ‘cocktail conversation.’ Lapine and Sondheim upend the perceived romantic life supposedly lived by artists. An artist’s compulsion to dream something, create something special and worthwhile from a blank space when obstacles appear. Making art constitutes hard, valuable work although the world might denigrate that worth. 

That blank page or stage, a clean canvas, produces fresh optimism from dark circumstances in this musical, which provides redemption for the audience. Despite life’s losses and changes, Seurat’s love and passion for color, flecks of light and dark, crystallized into beauty. Seeing something else no one else could see, an artist’s unique contribution. Seurat proclaimed, “This gave greater intensity to the all color and light… that shimmers from the heart.”

Skylight’s marvelous production emotionally shimmers from the heart, a must see performance to end their performance season. Which encourages the audience to purchase a subscription for the coming year. Exceptional art will rarely be easy or inexpensive to create, which then requires unparalleled determination and vision to produce in any medium. Connect with Seurat’s color and light at the Cabot theatre. Find its beauty seen through artists’ eyes that in love stare at a blank white space and think: “So many possibilities.” 

The Skylight Music Theatre presents Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George at the Broadway Theatre Center through June 10. For information on a subscription for the 2012-2013 season or to purchase tickets please call: 414.291.7800 or click the link to the left.       By Peggy Sue Dunigan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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