Welcome back to my 'And the Tony Almost Went to...' series, where I talk about the one show that probably came closest to winning Best Musical in any previous year of the Tony Awards.
Inspired by the French pointillist painter Georges Seurat's painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, the musical revolves around George, a fictionalized version of Seurat, who immerses himself deeply in painting his masterpiece, and his great-grandson (also named George), a conflicted and cynical contemporary artist.
The original cast included Mandy Patinkin as Georges Seurat/George, Bernadette Peters as Dot/Marie, Barbara Bryne as Old Lady/Blair Daniels, Judith Moore as Nurse/Harriet Pawling, Charles Kimbrough as Jules/Bob Greenberg, Dana Ivey as Yvonne/Naomi Eisen, Robert Westenberg as Soldier/Alex, Melanie Vaughan as Celeste #1/Waitress, Mary D’Arcy as Celeste #2/Elaine, and Brent Spiner as Franz/Dennis.
The production received 10 Tony Award nominations for Best Musical, Best Lead Actor in a Musical (Mandy Patinkin), Best Lead Actress in a Musical (Bernadette Peters), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Dana Ivey), Best Direction of a Musical (James Lapine), Best Book of a Musical (James Lapine), Best Original Score (Stephen Sondheim), Best Lighting Design (Richard Nelson)*, Best Scenic Design (Tony Straiges)*, and Best Costume Design (Patricia Zipprodt & Ann Hould-Ward).
*denotes an award it won.
Why Didn’t Sunday in the Park with George Win?: Despite being credited as a brilliant artistic achievement for Sondheim over the years, the original production opened to mixed reviews from critics. In his review for The New York Times, Frank Rich wrote "I do know... that Mr. Sondheim and Mr. Lapine have created an audacious, haunting and, in its own intensely personal way, touching work. Even when it fails – as it does on occasion – Sunday in the Park is setting the stage for even more sustained theatrical innovations yet to come." La Cage aux Folles won 6 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Lead Actor in a Musical (George Hearn), Best Direction of a Musical (Arthur Laurents), Best Book of a Musical (Harvey Fierstein), Best Original Score (Jerry Herman), and Best Costume Design (Theoni V. Aldredge).