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Lecture 9

MUSIC 2TT3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 9: Bernadette Peters, James A. Garfield, James Goldman

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Lara Housez

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Music 2TT3 Lecture 9 Sunday in the Park with George and Assassins
Sondheim from 1970 and 1984
- Company (1970) 706 performances
- Follies (1971) 522 performances
o With bookwriter James Goldman, producer director Harold Prince, choreographer
Michael Bennet and set designer Boris Aronson
o Original show, based on a newspaper clipping
- A Little Night Music (1973) 601 performances
o With bookwriter Hugh Wheeler, producer-director Prince, choreographer
Patrician Birch and set designer Aronson
o Based on film Smiles of a Summer Night by Ingmar Bergman (atypical source)
- Pacific Overtures (1976) 193 performances
o With bookwriter John Weidman, producer-director Prince and set designer
o Based on a play by Weidman
- Sweeney Todd (1979) 557 performances
o With bookwriter Hugh Wheeler and director Prince
o Based on a play by Christopher Bond
- Merrily We Roll Along (1981) 16 performances
o With bookwriter George Furth (company) and producer director Prince
o Based on a play by George Kaufman and Moss Hart
- Sondheim and Prince worked together on 6 shows over 11 years
- After Merrily closed, they parted and Sondheim again found himself looking for the right
o Sondheim & Prince parted ways, but keen to start a new chapter in their
respective lives
- Prince directs Phantom and greater heights
- Sondheim considers leaving musical theatre again, looking for right material and
collaborator at this point
Changes on Broadway in the 1980s
- Soaring production costs
- Inflation
- Increasing number of tourists in audiences
- Decreasing number of theatres
- The tastes of producers who financed shows and the tastes of audience watching them
- Preferences for less sophisticated shows with formulaic structures, plots, characters, etc.
and wider appeal
- Sondheim searches for a new collaborator and ideas for a new show
James Lapine (b.1949)
- American bookwriter, playwright, director, filmmaker, photographer, visual artist
- With Sondheim: Sunday in the Park with George (1984), Into the Woods (1987) and
Passion (1994)
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- Georges Seurat: Neo-impressionist
o Uses tiny dots of different colours from a distance, colours mixes and shimmers
and gives painting life
o Did not experience success in his lifetime
o Method was too methodical and he wasn’t known until now
- Impressionism: Claude Money
o Artwork from dabs of colour; brush strokes into bits and sashes
o From distance looks like shimmers to viewer
Who is Georges Seurat (1859 91)?
- Do musical based on painting
- Very little known about his life
- Created an almost entirely fictional story
- Lapine & Sondheim created a plot based on a painting
- Seurat had an unusual technique and an unusual name for it, chromoluminarism
o His technique today is often referred to as pointalism
- Sondheim and Lapine emulate this technique in the musical (in many ways, the plot, the
characters and dabs of music)
- Seurat’s art technique
- From the words “colour” and “light”
- Seurat developed a technique that resembled pointillism: rather than mix his paints on a
palette, he juxtaposed small dots of pure colour on a canvas, which the ye of the viewer
combined from a distance
- Sondheim: “I thought: isn’t this interesting that Seurat had, on his palette, eleven colours
and white. And I thought, eleven and one make twelve. And how many notes are there in
the scale? Twelve, And I thought, ooh, isn’t that interesting. So I thought I would utilize
that in some way, shape, or form.”
o 12 notes in the scale, talking about the chromatic scale
o The number 12 shows up in many places
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o In act 1 11 musical numbers, plus an opening prelude
o 11 instrumental colours in the orchestra, plus the conductor making 12
o The play unfolds in 12 settings, many of these days Sundays
o 12 singing characters in the cast
Sunday in the Park with George
- Composer-lyricist: Stephen Sondheim
- Bookwriter: James Lapine (also as director)
- Source: The Life and work of Georges Seurat
- Producer: Shubert Organization and Emanuel Azenburg
- Director: Lapine
- Actors: Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters
- New York run: 2 May 1984 13 October 1985
- Performances: 604
- Awards: 2 Tonys (Best Scenic Design and Lighting), Pulitzer Prize for Drama
- Revivals: 2008 (149 performances), 2017 (ongoing starring Jake Gyllenhall)
Sidebar: Pulitzer Prize for Drama
- Since 1917, this award has recognized a theatrical event staged in the United States
- Not many musicals have won it as opposed to plays
- Eight musicals have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama:
o Of Thee I Sing (1931)
o South Pacific (1949)
o Fiorello! (1960)
o How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (1962)
o A Chorus Line (1975)
o Sunday in the Park with George (1984)
o Rent (1996)
o Next to Normal (2010)
o Hamilton (2015)
Character doublings across Sunday’s 2 acts
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