Before you even have time to sit down and enjoy the beauty that is the Hudson Broadway Theatre, you get taken back to Paris in 1884 as Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford take you on a journey that can only be described as a transcendental experience in their latest play, Sunday in the Park with George. A musical inspired by a painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jattee” painted by Georges Seurat. Act I takes place during a series of Sunday’s between 1884 and 1886 as George (Gyllenhaal) becomes transfixed on painting as many subjects as possible while trying to maintain a relationship with his mistress Dot (Ashford).
The play begins with the ultimate challenge, a blank canvas. “White, a blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole, through design, composition, tension, balance, light, and harmony.” You don’t realize just how important those words are until the play is over. Gyllenhaal dazzles with a voice so powerful and full of passion fans could probably stand outside and hear him belt out songs like “Color and Light,” “Finishing the Hat,” “Lesson 8,” and “Move On” all, which brought the audience to their feet. Gyllenhaal is careful when choosing roles; whether it’s a big blockbuster movie, a play like Constellations or his latest journey playing George – one thing has become clear, he can do it all and intensely well.
However, behind every good man is a great woman. Ashford’s portrayal of both Dot and Marie brought all the emotions one can have during a play. She was funny, sad, heartfelt, lonely, and ultimately the one that got away. Ashford, who is no stranger to singing, belts her heart out like it’s the last performance she will ever have. The chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Ashford make the play and help you to get through Georges constant lack of passion, as he works round the clock on finishing what he hopes will be his masterpiece.
Although there is must respect for the original, this revival is one to be reckoned with. When you are not laughing you are almost crying. When you are not crying the lights, the songs, the acting, the use of props, and the overall ensemble amaze you.
Music Director, Chris Fenwick and the entire company play Stephen Sondheim’s music flawlessly letting the actors all but float across the stage. This is a complete masterpiece of its own that is a must see for all lovers of Broadway. This play will make you re-evaluate yourself in ways you never thought possible. Gyllenhaal and Ashford deserve a tony nomination and if nothing else should know they created such magic on stage that people will take a piece of their characters home with them as part of their own lives journey.
Tickets are on sale now through April 23 at the Hudson Broadway Theatre’s website, or by calling 1800-Broadway. Run time is 2 hours and 26 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.