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“Putting It Together”: An ode to the artwork of creating artwork

Bycbs editor

Mar 20, 2022

It commenced with a painting: George Seurat’s 1886 pointillist masterpiece, “A Sunday on La Grand Jatte.” It changed into the foundation for 1984’s groundbreaking Broadway musical, “Sunday withinside the Park with George,” which starred Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters, and changed into co-written through James Lapine and the overdue Stephen Sondheim
Seurat’s completed work, composed completely of tiny painted dots, hangs withinside the Art Institute of Chicago.
At New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lapin, Peters, Patinkin, and correspondent Mo Rocca visited a smaller study, accomplished through the artist years earlier.
“The monkey constantly stays the mystery,” Lapine stated.”
“In the huge painting, my bustle changed into higher. Also, I placed on some kilos withinside the huge painting!” Peters laughed.
“But the concept that this will be a study?” stated Lapine. “I mean, in and of itself, it is a first rate painting.”
Back in 1982, Lapine changed into a image fashion dressmaker with enjoy simplest in experimental theater, who visited Sondheim – already a legend – with a postcard photograph of the painting. “We had been sitting at the floor,” Lapine recalled. “And we in all likelihood had smoked a joint and we had been simply observing it. And then we commenced breaking it down.”
Seurat himself died at thirty-one, having by no means bought a prime work, his very own lifestyles some thing of a clean canvas. Into that void Lapine and Sondheim imagined an artist suffering mightily to create, and the determine withinside the foreground as his mistress named (what else?) Dot, a lady requesting greater of Seurat than he can give.
Now, Lapine, who additionally directed the display, has written a ee-e book, “Putting It Together” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), approximately the making of the musical, starting with the concept.
Patinkin recalled, “James got here over to the house. He stated, ‘I recognize that is gonna sound pretentious, however Steve and I sat down and we mentioned making a piece of artwork primarily based totally on a piece of artwork.’ I did not assume it changed into pretentious, however I concept, ‘Oh, okay. That sounds interesting.'”
“No, I assume you concept it changed into pretentious,” Lapin laughed.
“Oh, did I? But you apologized for the pretentious possibility – “
“After you stated, ‘That’s quite pretentious!'”
Next got here the casting…
“I noticed this adorable lady to my left, Bernadette Peters, in ‘Pennies from Heaven,’ the film,” stated Lapine. “I sort of fell in love with her. I additionally concept that she simply gave the look of she changed into from the nineteenth century. Mandy, I concept, changed into first rate withinside the ‘Evita’ industrial.”
“You did not see the display?” requested Peters. “That’s hysterical!”
Patinkin had simply received a Tony for his overall performance as a fiery modern in “Evita.”
“I by no means noticed the display,” Lapine laughed. “I noticed him withinside the industrial and I stated, ‘Yeah, he appears intense, and he sings first rate, and he seems like George Seurat.”
Rocca stated, “The industrial changed into first rate. It truely changed into a first rate industrial!”
The authentic Off-Broadway forged additionally blanketed destiny stars Brent Spiner, Christine Baranski, and Kelsey Grammer. But setting the display collectively changed into no stroll withinside the park.
Rocca requested, “Kelsey Grammer yelled at you? Tell me approximately that.”
“He yelled at me in the front of the company,” Lapine stated. “Apparently, I had no fashion in giving notes, and changed into pretty blunt with human beings. I’m very keen on him. And he changed into first rate withinside the display. But at that factor I truely did not have my human beings competencies collectively. We had been kinda children puttin’ on a display.”
The stress changed into even more on Patinkin, whose component changed into nevertheless being written whilst starting night time approached. “You walked out at one factor, stormed down the street,” requested Rocca.
“I changed into terrified,” Patinkin stated. “And human beings had been coming. And I simply stated, ‘I do not know a way to do this.’ I changed into simply in a kingdom of terror.”
Lapine known as Patinkin’s wife, Kathryn Grody, for advice: “She stated, ‘Just inform Mandy you like him.’ And I simply stated to her, ‘You were given the incorrect guy!'” he laughed.
“But he determined a manner to inform me that,” stated Patinkin. “I mean, he makes a laugh of himself, he says what he says. But he determined his manner to inform me he cherished me. It have become one of the, you recognize, moments of my lifestyles.”
But Peters, who’d been acting on New York tiers for the reason that age of ten, by no means panicked: “Steve and James, they may be so specific. So, I knew there had been first rate human beings on the helm. And I knew that the deliver changed into going to head forward.”
“You should simply inform that primarily based totally for your enjoy?” Rocca requested.
“Oh, yes, due to the fact in different shows, there had been human beings on the helm, however there had been such a lot of different human beings speakme of their ears, that they might get confused. But those men had been so clean wherein they had been going with the display, that I simply felt secure.”
Still, the forecast for “Sunday withinside the Park” changed into bleak. The display’s very own degree group nicknamed it “Sunday withinside the Dark and Bored.” Preview audiences had been leaving in droves.
Rocca requested, “Isn’t it genuine one of the manufacturers at one factor virtually held the door?”
“Yeah,” stated Lapine. “He in the end were given up and went to the door that human beings had been strolling out of and simply held it open for human beings, ‘motive it squeaked whenever that anyone walked out.”
On the night time critics had been to look the display, the identical day the very last songs had been added, Lapine amassed the forged.
Patinkin stated, “James stood on the foot of that degree, and all of us were given in that semi-circle. And he spoke to us in a sort of clean, but see-via code, which changed into, ‘Believe in this. You’ve accomplished this. You recognize this piece. Please, positioned away each doubt you have. Just neglect about approximately it.’ It changed into a sort of silent prayer in-among his words.”
Peters stated, “It changed into from his heart.”
“Was it such as you had been handing your child over?” requested Rocca.
“I don’t have any recollection of this,” Lapine replied. Part of the surprise of the ee-e book changed into coming across these items that I truely did not remember, to inform you the truth.”
“We went available like a team,” Patinkin stated, “and we commemorated his request.”
The display received the Pulitzer Prize, and has turn out to be a classic – Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s ode to the artwork of creating artwork.
Rocca requested, “What’s it want to study or sing a first rate piece of writing for the primary time?”
“It’s everything, while it is written so beautifully, in particular Steve,” Peters replied. “It facilitates you specific you. It receives what is internal of you out. And I assume every person would really like to have what is internal of them pop out and specific themselves.”