“Everyone gets along with him, that’s the problem with him”
In listening to cast recordings, one can get struck wondering who are they for. For fans obviously, those who saw the show or those who weren’t able to make it along and as a legacy of those productions deemed worthy enough. But what about casual listeners, those simply dipping a toe into the world of musical theatre, could one honestly recommend the complexity of Sondheim and Lapine’s Sunday in the Park with George?
Perhaps not, but that’s not to say it isn’t an excellent thing. Some call this show one of Sondheim’s more accessible but I’m not convinced – its pointillist nature and time-jump format are inventive but still challenging and the inclusion of passages of dialogue – something Sondheim recordings often do – are as much of a hindrance as a help, they add to a fuller understanding of the story but also have an alienating effect – I was banned from listening to this out loud in the flat!
This West End transfer of a Menier Chocolate Factory production directed by Sam Buntrock is blessed with two excellent lead performances though – Daniel Evans’ George and Jenna Russell’s Dot, the obsessive painter and his passionate subject whose burgeoning but problematic relationship is the crux of the first act. He brings a growing emotionality that really pays off after the interval break and Russell is customarily superb, especially in ‘We Do Not Belong Together’.
With striking supporting turns from Gay Soper as George’s ageing mother and Liza Sadovy’s tightly wound Yvonne who is married to one of George’s fellow artists, there’s thus much to commend this recording. Jason Carr’s re-orchestration of the score makes it a more spare and intimate affair, the lushness of sound coming more from the chorus than orchestra but that’s no bad thing. Just don’t expect this CD to convert any musical theatre naysayers, heathens that they are!