An artist begins with nothing more than an idea or a vision, then creates "order, design, tension, balance, harmony." And should that artist experiment with a new form, the public — and the critics — may not get the point or appreciate its difficult fulfillment.
Such is the canvas of Sunday in the Park With George, Stephen Sondheim's Pulitzer Prize-winning musical (book by James Lapine) about an artist's solitary focus and an audience's reaction to his work. Here, the artist is Post-Impressionist pointillist Georges Seurat, whose effort and artwork, misunderstood during his short life, we see through his and others' eyes.
Musical Theater Heritage's production, directed by Sarah Crawford, incorporates a large cast (17 members) and live music (a 10-piece orchestra) to achieve the company's characteristic expanded reading. In Act 1's 1884, Tim Scott channels an emotionally removed Georges; in a more intimate Act 2, he's 1980s artist George, a fictional Seurat descendant who connects the dots between his heritage and his artistic struggles. As Dot, Seurat's Act 1 mistress and painting subject, and as Marie, George's grandmother, in Act 2, Katie Karel is the yin to the two artists' yang. (Co-stars and musicians also stand out.)
"Composition, balance, light" — Seurat transforms an ordinary day in a park into "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte." A vision's just a vision if it's only in your head, George sings. If no one gets to see it, it's as good as dead, Marie adds. We experience both Sondheim's and Seurat's in the much alive Sunday in the Park.