More Color and Light! Acclaimed Sunday in the Park With George, With Jason Danieley, Extends in Chicago
By Kenneth Jones
Chicago Shakespeare Theater's new production of Sunday in the Park With George, embraced by critics and selling briskly, will get an extra week, now to Nov. 11, the Tony Award-winning theatre announced on Oct. 11. Jason Danieley, of Broadway's Candide, Curtains, The Full Monty and Next to Normal, plays George.
The revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical opened Oct. 3 following previews from Sept. 26. Gary Griffin directs at CST's Courtyard Theater, a three-quarter thrust venue that adds rare visual dimension to the show about art, artists and a famous canvas.
The 1983 musical rumination on making art (and its toll on an artist's personal life) has music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine.
The Chicago production has a local angle — local color, if you will. The central visual idea in the show is French impressionist Georges Seurat's pointillist painting "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte—1884," which hangs at the Art Institute of Chicago. Act One is about Seurat's monomania in the late 19th century, while Act Two focuses on an American artist-heir of his (also named George) who is struggling with "the art of making art" 100 years later. Danieley told Playbill.com that he viewed the painting one morning, and he was alone in the gallery. He said that he found it inspiring and emotional. At a recent promotional event, he and the cast (in full costume) sang "Sunday" at the museum in front of surprised visitors (see that video below).
Performances of Sunday in the Park With George were originally announced to play CST's Courtyard Theater on Navy Pier to Nov. 4.
Associate artistic director Griffin directed last season's Follies at CST, and had a hit with CST's Pacific Overtures, which traveled to London and won the Olivier Award. He also staged Broadway's The Color Purple and The Apple Tree.
Carmen Cusack, who toured as Nellie in the Lincoln Center Theater production of South Pacific, plays Dot — Seurat's muse. In Act Two, she is Marie, the American George's grandmother.
The company also features Linda Stephens (Meg in Broadway's Damn Yankees in 1994) as Blair/Old Lady, Rachel Cantor as Celeste 1/Naomi Eisen, McKinley Carter as Yvonne/Betty, Derek Hasenstab as Franz/Dennis, Heidi Kettenring as Mrs./Frieda, Sean Fortunato as Jules/Alex, Kevin Gudahl as Mr./Bob Greenberg, Ora Jones as Nurse/Harriet Pauling, Michael Aaron Lindner as Louis/Billy Webster, William Travis Taylor as Soldier/Lee Randolph, Elizabeth Lanza as Celeste 2, Benjamin Magnuson as Boatman/Charles Redmond and Madison Olszewski as the little girl, Louise.
The production's musical director is Brad Haak. The production team also includes conductor Ryan Nelson, who leads the 11-person orchestra; scenic designer Kevin Depinet; costume designer Mara Blumenfeld; lighting designer Philip Rosenberg; sound designers Ray Nardelli and Dan Mead; projections designer Mike Tutaj; wig and makeup designer Melissa Veal; and properties master Chelsea Meyers.
For more about the Tony Award-winning CST, which is under the direction of artistic director Barbara Gaines and executive director Criss Henderson, visit chicagoshakes.com.
Jason Danieley and his wife, Marin Mazzie, are among artists performing on Playbill's Broadway on the High Seas 2 Cruise to South America this December. It's sold out, but a starry 2013 cruise is now booking. Recordings featuring Danieley are available at PlaybillStore.com.
Watch the cast of CST's Sunday in the Park With George surprise visitors to the Art Institute of Chicago.
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