The Small Stage Holds a Big Masterpiece at Redmond’s ‘Sunday in the Park with George’

The highly acclaimed, lesser-performed Sondheim work gets an exceptional staging at Redmond’s SecondStory Repertory. Sunday in the Park with George performs through this Sunday


Is there a more poignant moment in all of Stephen Sondheim’s work than the crescendo of emotion that peaks during “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George? Reversing the title of an act one song, Sondheim packs the maximum amount of feeling four words can bear into “We’ve always belonged together.” As the summation to a score defined by tension and discursion, the nakedly emotional finish is a stunning catharsis.

Of course, it only works if you have a lead who’s up to the demanding vocal task, and in SecondStory Repertory’s staging, they do. Jacqueline Tardanico is impressive as Dot and Marie, nailing the rapid-fire patter in the show’s opening, landing the withering disappointment in her Bernadette Peters-styled phrasing and, yes, soaring into the finale with a swell of palpable feeling.

Tardanico would be reason enough to venture to Redmond to see the show, but SecondStory’s production, directed by Harry Turpin, is admirable all around. This might seem like an ambitious undertaking, but longtime artistic director Mark Chenovick has never been one to be constricted by “neighborhood theatre” expectations in his programming, with a string of interesting shows over the past decade that includes other Sondheim works like Assassins and A Little Night Music.

Sondheim and James Lapine’s Sunday in the Park with George, inspired by Georges Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece “A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte,” only becomes more meaningful as our culture continually degrades the role of the artist. The show’s contempt for society strivers and philistine administrators in the art scene of the 1980s could be pointed in a few additional directions today. Let’s start with those AI art Twitter accounts.

In SecondStory’s staging, Brian Pucheu makes that frustration palpable as Georges and George, the artists separated by a century who find themselves out of lockstep with modern sensibilities — and uninterested in aligning.

Grand but dense, most of Sondheim’s works can feel at home on a massive stage or in a small room. And though the re-creation of Seurat’s painting that makes up the central tableau really does require a bigger canvas, director Turpin makes good use of the intimate SecondStory space, blocking the 15-person ensemble cast well and using a platform that abuts the first row to achieve the necessary distance between Georges and Dot. All the better to see Tardanico’s skills up close.

Though we’ll never run low on Sweeney Todd or Into the Woods, it may be a while before the Seattle area sees another staging of Sondheim’s finest work.

Sunday in the Park With George runs through 5/28 at SecondStory Repertory in Redmond. Tickets ($30) here. Accessibility notes: restrooms are gendered and multi-stall; theatre and common areas are wheelchair accessible.

Dusty Somers is a lifelong Seattleite whose love of the arts has resulted in a distressingly large physical media collection. Right about now, he’s probably watching a movie, seeing a play or listening to a record. He has covered theatre for City ArtsThe Seattle Times, and NWTheatre.