Theatre: Sunday in the Park with George

On Friday evening I finally got to see Sunday in the Park with George. It has been playing at the Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark sine November and the season there has been completely sold out. It transfers to the West End in May (www.sundayinthepark.co.uk) but it was nice to see it in the smaller space of the Chocolate Factory (even if the seats are unreserved and not that comfy).

I took M to see it as he is a bit of a musical aficionado; well he has seen Mamma Mia three times so I figured this might be his cup of tea. Prior to the show we grabbed a bite to eat at an Italian restaurant and it was there where I explained the plot of the show to him, the artist George Seurat and the history of pointillism in between bites of lasagne. M commented later during interval this briefing was useful in explaining some aspects of the first half of the show.

I then was able to warn him that in the second half of the show the narrative really does something unexpected and moves forward 100 years. For some reason many people don't like this sort of thing and is the key criticism I always hear about the show. The problem is with audience expectations about what Sunday in the park with George is about. I think the show is about broad themes of art and family and life and the characters in the story are simply there to illustrate this. The show won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1984 so some people out there like it too.

The show has some of the great songs of musical theatre as well including "We do not belong together", "Putting it together" (which Streisand recorded and sort of made famous) and "Move on". I read once that a poll of cabaret artists voted "We do not belong together as one of the most emotional (think torch) songs ever written". I would tend to agree. I would also add that "Move on" would have to be one of the most inspiring songs ever written about life as well. The show may not leave you dancing in the streets, but it does make you think about your life and all its endless possibilities. M and I decided against drinks in Soho afterwards as we were far too much in a reflective meditative mood for all that.

This was a fantastic production of the show. The cast were excellent and provided the right balance of humour and drama to the story. Screen projections (rather than cardboard cut-outs that the original production has used) has really helped with the clarity of the story too. It will be interesting to see how well it does in the West End but it would have to rate on my rather organic and long list of best shows I have seen in London.

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