This week in TONY, I'm a busy bee. First, I wrote a mash note to the inimitable Cynthia Hopkins (left), bandleader of Gloria Deluxe and the creative motor behind a trilogy of fascinating music-theater pieces (Accidental Nostalgia, Must Don't Whip Um and in-progress, The Success of Failure (or The Failure of Success). I've been a fan of Hopkins for years and now I get to tell the world! I'll be at her latest event, a CD release party and work-in-progress showing at St Ann's Warehouse this Sunday night 7pm. Details here. Also this week a review of the smart, intimate, entrancing, digitally enhanced revival of Sunday in the Park with George. Whiz-kid director Sam Buntrock and a strong cast actually make the second act of this supposedly problematic work more engaging and thematically rich than the first. Sound impossible? Well see for yourself. The typical rap on the show is that the first act is brilliant and the second is a letdown. Not true. The first act ends on a terrific act of aesthetic sublimation—George creating his magisterial painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. But in doing so, he rejects his model-lover Dot and their baby. Emotionally brutal. In the second act, a century later, all that pent-up anger and grief is basically channeled by the second George, a modern-day maker of multimedia installations. In the number "Lesson #8," George sits on a park bench on the denuded, drab, industrial island that was the inspiration for the first act Sunday in the Park, and has a personal breakdown-cum-epiphany. It's incredibly sad and beautiful. An elegy for the ugliness of now and for the artist as a broken person. Sondheim is fiendishly clever with lyrics, of course, but he has an equally staggering catalogue of simple heartbreaking numbers about personality disintegration: "Losing My Mind," "A Bowler Hat" and "Lesson #8." Sunday, along with Assassins and Into the Woods, constituted my college introduction to Sondheim and they changed the way I thought about musicals. Well, actually, they formed the basis for how I think about musicals, period. Which means I'm disappointed most of the time.
I'm off to Iceland next Tuesday and crazed before then, but hope to blog before. Maybe even from Reykjavik.