Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I Fell In Love Last Night.

For Christmas I got C tickets to the new revival of Sunday in the Park with George. The not-really-a-gift-because-it's-for-me-too-ness of it was somewhat mitigated by the fact that I've never really liked this show. It is musical theater apostacy, but I was never -- except for the Gypsy and West Side Story lyrics and maybe a dozen songs that I think are absolutely sublime and most of them are from Company -- never really much of a Sondheim lover. All those jagged melodies, and the always sort of cool, highbrow take on the subject at hand, and here's another word that rhymes with that, and here's another, and another. And another. Sunday in the Park with George always felt like the embodiment of everything I didn't respond to in Sondheim's work.

I am happy to report that it was I who was full of shit. In the middle of the first act, just when I'm thinking "what is this show about? is anything going to actually happen?," the lights focus in on George sitting downstage left, the orchestra gets quiet,  it's the end of the song, and he sings
Look I made a hat
Where there never was a hat 
I couldn't breathe for a second. From that moment till the end I was either weeping or on the verge of it. This show that I always said I didn't know what it was about was suddenly about everything I've ever cared about in my life. I knew it was about art, but I never felt how it was about art till last night.

(One big revelation for me was learning that Putting it Together is a song about fundraising. I guess I'd never listened closely to the lyrics, but I always thought it was a song about the artistic process. I know, duh, I'm probably the last person on earth that didn't know that. It didn't resonate when I first encountered the song -- I wasn't so battered and bruised by decades of negotiating the relationship between art and money.)

Maybe it's just because I'd never seen a production of the show, or maybe because this cast make what I think is overcomplicated music emotionally straightforward. Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford both give really clear, simple performances that were at times heartbreaking. The simplicity of the staging also threw the emotional arc into relief.

I love having something new to be a fan of. What's next? God forbid, Into the Woods?

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