FEATUREFebruary 2023

Sundays with George

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By Eva Trieger

Many art lovers are well-acquainted with Georges Seurat’s bucolic painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande. Less familiar may be the Stephen Sondheim musical this painting inspired. Sunday in the Park with George with book by James Lapine and music and lyrics by Sondheim, celebrates the fluidity of time and the full spectrum of human emotion as it is expressed through art. The California Center for the Arts will be showcasing this ten-time Tony award-winner opening on February 17th, 2023.

In a phone interview last week, I finally caught up with the indefatigueable actor, Will Blum. Blum was performing on Broadway in Beetlejuice, when the lead suffered a concussion. Unfortunate as this was for Alex Brightman, it put Blum in the spotlight, literally. This show was the actor’s fifth time in a Broadway show, having previously performed in Grease, Book of Mormon, School of Rock, and Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy. After doing so much comedy, Blum welcomes the opportunity to play painter George Seurat in Sunday, and to share his musical and vocal talents in such a deep way with a text that becomes “divine” through interpretation. “I am humbled when I am given the chance to interact with such words, and pour myself into them.”

From the tender and impressionable age of three or four, Blum knew he wanted to engage in the arts. Following a visit to the ballet, his first Nutcracker, Blum got up on the stage after the show! He told me that he’d always had an affinity for Rodgers and Hammerstein and memorized the music of Phantom of the Opera from his much-listened to double cassette tape.

While Blum’s parents are not classically trained actors by profession, as ordained ministers, he watched them “perform” weekly, delivering sermons. Blum saw their unique styles as a type of art or theater. He was aware that through their words and story-telling, people were changed and this impressed him mightily.

Certainly, the pandemic has set many actors back, taking them off stages and away from audiences, however, not the courageous and enterprising Blum! In his New York City apartment, the innovative actor created a sand cave, made of boxes and tape, and produced a portion of a musical based on the fascinating real-life story of Floyd Collins, a caver who was trapped for seventeen days, and eventually, buried alive. The Obie-winning musical (1997) was written by Adam Guettel and Tina Landau. You can watch Blum’s inventive interpretation on YouTube.

Blum is particularly thrilled to tackle his “dream role” in Sunday in the Park with George and knows it will be an optimal chance to show his true colors. In addition the actor, who teaches a song study course, is elated to pay homage to Stephen Sondheim, whom he says was “a master at writing the human soul.” This particular show speaks to him because following the trauma we’ve all lived through in the last two years, we are now seeking beauty in the ordinary. “On an ordinary Sunday” we are able to occupy a space that promotes feelings of peace and pulchritude.

Sunday in the Park with George will run from February 17 through March 5. Tickets may be purchased by phone 1-800-988-4253 or online at tickets@artcenter.org

 

L'Chaim

Tu B’Shevat

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