James Lapine, Bernadette Peters, and Mandy Patinkin joined CBS Sunday Morning to talk about the artist George Seurat and their work on the musical inspired by his work, Sunday in the Park With George. Lapine's recently released book, Putting It Together: How Stephen Sondheim and I Created Sunday in the Park With George, going behind-the-scenes of the creation of the Pulitzer-winning musical, written with late composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim, who would have turned 92 this week. The piece aired March 20 on the CBS morning show, which you can watch above.
The segment sees the trio visiting one of Seurat's practice paintings, currently housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to discuss what it took to create the musical with moderator (and Broadway alum) Mo Rocca. Watch the piece above.
Lapine shares an anecdote about an altercation between him and company member Kelsey Grammer during Sunday's Off-Broadway workshop at Playwrights Horizons; the stage and screen actor created the role of the Soldier, but left the production before its Broadway transfer to join the cast of TV's Cheers as Dr. Frasier Crane, the role he would go on to play for 20 years.
"He yelled at me in front of the company. Apparently I had no style in giving notes, and was fairly blunt with people. At that point, I really didn't have my people skills together. We were kind of kids putting on a show."
Patinkin shared the fear the gripped him immediately before opening on Broadway, causing him to nearly walk off the job. "I was terrified. People were coming, and I just said 'I don't know how to do this.' I was just in a state of terror."
Peters, on the other hand, maintained a steady confidence in the piece despite surrounding firestorms. "Steve and James, they're just so specific, so I knew there were two great people at the helm, and I knew that the ship was going to go forward... On other shows, there were people at the helm, but there were so many other people talking in their ears that they would get confused. These two guys were so clear about where they were going with the show that I just felt secure."
Sunday in the Park With George opened on Broadway in 1984 at the Booth Theatre. Mandy Patinkin took on the role of Seurat (as well as Seurat’s great-grandson in the second act), with Bernadette Peters as his muse and mistress Dot (and later, the pair’s daughter). The production earned 10 Tony nominations, winning for scenic and lighting design. The following year, the show was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, becoming the sixth musical to receive the accolade.
The new book includes anecdotes from the development process, conversations with Lapine, Sondheim, and cast and creatives from the original production, script notes, archival photos and sketches, and more.