Villanova Theatre: “Sunday in the Park with George”


Villanova Theatre is showing “Sunday in the Park with George” until April 23.

Sara Hecht, Staff Writer

On Thursday, April 13th, Villanova’s Graduate Theater Program celebrated the opening night of Sunday on the Park with George in the Topper Theatre of The John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts. This is the graduate program’s second main stage musical in the new Mullen Center. 

With lyrics and music from Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, the musical Sunday in the Park with George is a semi-fictionalized examination of French painter George Seurat during the three years in which he worked on what later became the masterpiece, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” 

Directed by Valerie Joyce, the show begins with a blank canvas but soon, through the seamless work of set, costumes, props, cast and crew, the Topper Theatre was transformed into a vibrant piece of living art. The painting itself now resides at the Art Institute of Chicago, where the second act occurs, and is also famously featured in John Hughes’ film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986). 

In “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the character Cameron Frye has an iconic staring contest with the little girl depicted at the center of Seurat’s painting. Sondheim’s musical vivifies this child, as well as 14 other figures featured in the painting. With these enlivened figures, Sondheim’s lyrics and Jame Lapine’s book create entire interwoven storylines for each of Seurat’s subjects, including a few love affairs and transcontinental voyages. 

The story is a work of true genius which the show’s program attributes to Sondheim, who passed away in November of 2021 at the age of 91. 

“One of the most important figures in 20th century musical theater, Sondheim is credited for having reinvented the American musical with shows that tackle unexpected themes that range far beyond the genre’s traditional subjects that feature music and lyrics of unprecedented complexity and sophistication,” the program read.

Such unexpected themes and complex, sophisticated lyrics are evident and honored by Villanova Theatre’s stunning production.


Senior Grace Kully was in the audience opening night and shared her reaction to the way in which the technical aspects of the show worked hand-in-hand with the performers to create a visually stunning piece. 

“The storyline was really fascinating and intriguing, and the magnitude of the production, in terms of set, props, costumes, light and sound, was really exciting to see – especially as it was so creative and well executed,” Kully said. 

The scale of this production pays homage to Sondheim’s monster of a score with its gorgeous lyrics and dreamy melodies. Thus, when it comes to Sunday, it is hard to pick just a few favorite songs or moments. However, when polling cast, production staff, crew and audience members the most popular stand out moments included the songs “The Day Off,” “We Do Not Belong Together” and “It’s Hot Up Here.” 

Ryan Sherchak, a first-year MA student in Villanova’s Theatre program, commands the role of George in Villanova’s production. His embodiment of the character is as precise as Seurat’s pointillism itself. Sherchak shared that the opening of Act II, a scene in which his character is absent, is his favorite part of the show. 

“My favorite part of the show is oddly ‘It’s Hot Up Here,’” he said. “I think it’s a great opener to Act II and unbelievably clever in conveying what these characters would be experiencing after being immortalized in this painting. This is all in addition to the fact that the entire number is done in their painted positions with little to no movement. The song must be convincing and interesting if there is going to be hardly any movement.”

In addition to his favorite moment, Sherchak also shared why he finds Sunday, a show set in the 19th century, still so relatable, powerful and poignant today. 

Sunday in the Park with George explores the intricacies of passion and drive and how that tends to interact and intertwine with life,” Sherchack said. “When I first graduated college, I moved to New York in pursuit of a theatrical career. But life takes over, bills need to be paid, and your passion gets put on the back burner. As I continue to get older, I have found myself allowing my day to day to be influenced by what brings me joy again. In my opinion, there is no point in living your day to day life if you aren’t pursuing something you’re passionate about.”

Passion is intrinsic to Sunday, as it is the story of a painter who tirelessly devotes himself to creating a new style of art. In the show, Seurat’s fictional daughter strikingly sings, “It’s not so much do what you like as it is that you like what you do,” to her grandson, another young artist struggling to find new inspiration for his art. This statement holds a sentiment all audience members should heed and remember.


“Where I find this show relatable to audiences today is in the exploration of passion, as well as in the loss of passion and how that flame can be reignited,” Sherchack said. “We all experience the humdrum days, weeks, years, etc… before we let go of what society expects and rediscover ourselves and what we want. George and Dot both live their lives with gusto and conviction for their passions, needs, wants, desires (for some a bit too much, I’m looking at you, George, haha). Ultimately, for me though, this speaks to their drive and devotion, which is what I’ve taken away from this show.”

In fact, many audience members have already paid witness to the immense creativity and inspiring message of this musical. Reflecting on opening night of the show, senior Mary Sweeney shared how she was particularly struck by the cast’s united vivification of Seurat’s two dimensional divisionist painting, as well as how their performance resonated so deeply with audiences. 

“The actors truly did wonders at pulling characters off the canvas and creating a story that was captivating until the last stroke,” Sweeney said. 

Villanova Theatre’s Sunday in the Park with George will run until Sunday, April 23rd. Tickets are available for purchase on the Villanova Theatre website with special prices for students, staff, seniors and large groups.