Birmingham theater stages Stephen Sondheim musical


The Birmingham-based Village Players will present "Sunday in the Park with George," which opens May 29. This Stephen Sondheim musical, one of the most acclaimed productions of our time, is not often seen on local stages.

This moving study of the enigmatic painter Georges Seurat won a Pulitzer Prize for this sometimes funny, sometimes moody, always insightful examination of life through art and the artist.

Seurat is the pointillist French painter whose masterpiece is the huge painting entitled "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte." The 1884 painting is one of the most arresting pieces of the art collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Any visitor to the Art Institute cannot ignore it, and the musical's first act ends with a recreation of the painting on stage.

Undertaking the challenge of staging this musical is director Holly Hellsten Conroy. The Royal Oak resident is also costume and set designer for the show. Helping to keep all the balls in the air is producer Bryan Conroy, Holly's husband.

The Conroys, who met at Village Players, have become a successful director/producer team. They worked together on two Village Players productions, "Man of La Mancha" and "Jesus Christ Superstar."

"This show about art and artists is truly challenging for our own scenic artists," Conroy said in a press release. "It took George Seurat two years to complete his painting, 'A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,' but our talented team must recreate the masterpiece onstage in one month. Headed by local artist Mark Barrera, the team is doing a remarkable job - the show will be beautiful!"

Playing both the Victorian and the modern George is West Bloomfield resident Gary LaKind. LaKind did a star turn as "Herod" in last year's production of "Jesus Christ Superstar," but he says that was his first on-stage experience since he was 13 years old.

In the past, LaKind did not have much time for performing in theater. He's a medical doctor who works in occupational medicine. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and his M.D. from Des Moines University.

Playing the women in both Georges' lives is Michelle Rott Rosenblum. After 15 years of living and performing in New York City, Michelle settled down in West Bloomfield, along with her husband Ira, to raise their two children.

She holds a theater degree from Eastern Michigan University and has master's in both English and in Counseling & Psychology.

Besides her long theater experience, Michelle notes that she is one of the singers of the National Anthem at Detroit Pistons basketball games.

The play is even making its contribution to the environment.

"In an effort to be green, I've been collecting used foam-core boards from my employer, Campbell-Ewald Advertising, for almost a year and a half," Conroy said. "We've re-used the foam-core for a variety of scenic elements in this show; it's light-weight and easy to shape in all sorts of applications - and it was free. A non-profit community theater always finds it necessary to be as economical as possible."

'Sunday in the Park with George'

8 p.m. May 29-30, June 5-6, 12-13; 2 p.m. June 7 and 14

Village Players Playhouse

34660 Woodward, Birmingham

$17

248-644-2075 or http://www.birminghamvillageplayers.com

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