Sunday in the Park With George

Original Cast Recording

1984: RCA RCD1-5042

  1. Sunday in the Park with George
  2. No Life
  3. Color and Light
  4. Gossip
  5. The Day Off
  6. Everybody Loves Louis
  7. Finishing the Hat
  8. We Do Not Belong Together
  9. Beautiful
  10. Sunday
  11. It’s Hot Up Here
  12. Chromolume #7
    Putting It Together
  13. Children and Art
  14. Lesson #8
  15. Move On
  16. Sunday

Maybe “Sweeney Todd” is a more perfect musical. I don’t know. All I know is that “Sunday in the Park with George” is at least perfect if not pluperfect, and that its perfection is manifest in the videotape of the original cast performance is like getting Leonardo da Vinci’s commentary as he paints.

That the audio recording kicks off with a number so solidly dramatic and expository yet also gorgeous and moving and clever is just an opening salvo as to the album’s array of astonishments. There are gut-wrenchingly emotional agonies in “We Do Not Belong Together” and “Beautiful,” there are drily hilarious tableaux in “It’s Hot Up Here” and “Gossip,” and still on all tracks (including those four) the twist of sorrow or humor often sits right next to moments of the other end of the spectrum, which gives the impression of glimpsing the other side of the Möbius strip, as it were.

Both Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters deliver magnificent performances here, both as singers and as actors—Peters in particular established herself in my mind as something considerably more than the fluffy bit of comedy-ingénue bit-player she had seemed to be when I first heard of her in the mid-1970s. I am still dazzled by the range of character she delivers in just the opening track alone—from irked boredom to rapture, down to intimate tenderness and grief and back out to exasperation, all continuous in flow and never less than mesmerizingly compelling.