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Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters in the original Broadway production of Sunday in the Park with George; photo by Martha Swope/©Billy Rose Theatre Division, NYPL for the Performing Arts

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece is coming to City Center next week in a series of benefit concerts starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford. We looked back at how the show was written, how it revolutionized musical theater, and how it taught a generation of artists to move on.

“When I first hear a song sung, I’m worried that I’m going to be embarrassed by what I wrote,” said Stephen Sondheim while Sunday in the Park with George was in previews. “So I try to postpone the moment.” The quote is endearing, and more than a little absurd, coming from the patron saint of musical theater—but in early 1984, Sondheim hadn’t quite hit apotheosis. His previous musical, Merrily We Roll Along, had closed on Broadway after a disastrous 16-performance run, prompting such giddy theater-world schadenfreude that Sondheim considered abandoning Broadway to write mystery novels or video games.

Then salvation came—in the form of a Pointillist masterpiece. In June 1982, Sondheim began a tentative collaboration with James Lapine, a young Off-Broadway playwright. In search of a subject, they began rifling through photographs and paintings, one of which was Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

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October 19, 2016 by New York City Center

Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford joins SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE

Soon she can add Georges Seurat to her history of wrong guys: Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford will join the previously announced Jake Gyllenhaal in City Center’s Gala concert performance of Sunday in the Park with George on October 24. In response to overwhelming demand for performance-only tickets, we’ve added two additional benefit performances of Sunday on October 25 and 26. Click here to get tickets.

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July 14, 2016 by New York City Center
Do I Hear a Waltz Cast

We’re delighted to announce that Claybourne Elder, Melissa Errico, Sarah Hunt, Zachary Infante, Cass Morgan, Richard Poe, Michael Rosen, Sarah Stiles, and Richard Troxell will star in Do I Hear a Waltz? from May 11-15. The Encores! production of Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim’s romantic 1965 musical will be directed by Evan Cabnet, with choreography by Chase Brock and music direction by Rob Berman.

Our insanely gifted Waltz cast includes Sondheim veteran Claybourne Elder (Road Show), recent Tony Award nominee Sarah Stiles (Hand to God), and opera star Richard Troxell (Rigoletto)—but we’re particularly thrilled that Melissa Errico is returning to City Center, exactly twenty years after her transcendent performance in the Encores! production of One Touch of Venus. As the Roman goddess of love, Errico received critical raves and became an “overnight sensation,” in the words of The New York Times. (By the third performance, she was getting entrance applause.) Errico remains the only actor to win a Lucille Lortel Award for an Encores! show.

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April 4, 2016 by New York City Center
Rodgers and Sondheim Work

Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim consult during rehearsals for Do I Hear a Waltz? (Friedman-Abeles/©Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts)

This May, the ravishingly romantic 1965 musical Do I Hear a Waltz? will return to the New York stage for the first time in decades. Below, Encores! Music Director Rob Berman explains why the show is ripe for rediscovery.

The great collaboration of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein concluded with The Sound of Music in 1959 and the death of Hammerstein in 1960. Rodgers’ next effort was writing music and lyrics for No Strings, which opened in 1962 (and was presented by Encores! in 2003). In 1965, he collaborated with the young lyricist Stephen Sondheim (to whom Hammerstein had been a mentor) on Do I Hear A Waltz?, based on the 1952 Arthur Laurents play The Time of the Cuckoo. By this time, Sondheim had already contributed the lyrics for West Side Story (1957) and Gypsy (1959), and had written both music and lyrics for A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum (1962) and Anyone Can Whistle (1964).

Anyone Can Whistle (presented by Encores! in 2010) was also written (and directed) by Laurents and although it was not a success, it was an experimental, modern, boundary-pushing work with a musically complex score. One can imagine how these two artists might have been attracted to musicalizing the adult, sophisticated story of Do I Hear a Waltz?: the study of a repressed, neurotic, and romantically unfulfilled American, Leona Samish, who travels to Venice and has an affair with an older married Italian man. (Laurents’ original play was also adapted into a film, Summertime, starring Katharine Hepburn).

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April 1, 2016 by New York City Center
Andy Mientus on Stage

Andy Mientus.

Andy Mientus calls himself “the Cathy Rigby of Spring Awakening”—and he’s not wrong. A die-hard fan of the musical, Mientus moderated Spring Awakening’s official Facebook fan page during college and eventually joined the first national tour in 2008, playing the manipulative Aryan sexpot Hänschen. After starring in “Smash,” “The Flash,” and Les Misérables, Mientus returned to Hänschen’s britches last fall for the acclaimed Deaf West revival. But Spring Awakening isn’t the only incendiary rock musical that has his heart. When we asked Mientus to talk about his dream Encores! show, he selected Taboo, Boy George’s autobiographical 2003 musical about friendship, drugs, and decadence in the New Romantic club scene of the 1980s.

CITY CENTER: How did you discover Taboo?
ANDY MIENTUS: I went to see it when I was in high school. I had a driver’s license, and Pittsburgh is not close to New York, but not too far, so my parents somehow let me drive to New York City to see shows on the weekend. (laughs) Usually I would see Rent and something else. I would try the Rent lotto and see whatever else I could get into. I had read about Taboo on theater websites, and it sounded so fringy and poppy. Usually I would drive into New York City with friends—but for Taboo, I definitely went on a trip by myself when I was in high school and saw it. I think I rushed; I can’t quite remember.

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January 14, 2016 by New York City Center
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