Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Worthwhile Sacrifices

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Worthwhile Sacrifices

Article excerpt

Ambitious University of Florida students stage Sunday in the Park with George

As the Broadway revival of Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George was well into its run at Roundabout Theatre Company's Studio 54, the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical was produced simultaneously by college students through Florida Players, the student theatre company on the campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville. The limited engagement (March 28-30, 2008, which coincided with the 117th anniversary of Seurat's death) was directed, designed and performed by students.

This particular production of Sunday was noteworthy because it was Florida Players' first attempt to produce a work by Sondheim. A demanding musical even for professionals, Sunday presented the students with an array of obstacles and brought the growing organization to an entirely new level of production quality. Graduating senior Danny Sharron knew the task would be difficult when he proposed to direct Sunday, but the challenges were also part of the show's allure. Sharron "wanted to do something that would challenge the students involved. Doing Sondheim always provides that challenge. We gave people the opportunity to do Sondheim, to learn from it, grow from it and be better for it."

Since its original Broadway production in 1983, Sunday has often been a technically extravagant show. Florida Players, a student organization, had limited access to the funding needed for a typical Sunday set. Sharron recalls the daunting experience of reading the script for the first time. "I re-read the dialogue, ignoring the stage directions, and it helped me see it in a completely different light. It helped me move on from the original concept of the show and see it for what it is. In not having that many resources, we were almost forced to focus just on the story, because that's all we had to work with."

He wanted to present this piece in a whole new light and started with his cast. Sharron assembled a group of multicultural actors to portray the characters from Seurat's painting. Latino actors played George (George E. Salazar), Dot (Marisa Rivera) and the Boatman (Joey Hunt). The cast also featured a black Celeste (Naika Saint-Fort) and an Asian Nurse (Josephine Huang). Sharron's aim was to tell the story with actors of as many backgrounds as possible, creating an image as colorful as the painting itself. …

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