Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Sunday in the Park with George’ revival will be strong Tony Awards contender

Sunday in the Park with George,” one of only nine musicals to win the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Drama, will return to Broadway this spring with Oscar-nominee Jake Gyllenhaal (“Brokeback Mountain”) in the titular role. Despite a competitive field for the Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award, Gyllenhaal already looks like a strong contender for the trophy based on the raves he received for his performance in a recent Off-Broadway production of the show.

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For just three days in October, Gyllenhaal led a minimally staged concert version of the Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine 1984 musical at New York City Center, directed by the latter’s daughter Sarna Lapine. The brief mounting, which also featured Tony winners Annaleigh Ashford (“You Can’t Take It with You”), Phylicia Rashad (“A Raisin in the Sun”), Ruthie Ann Miles (“The King and I”), Gabriel Ebert (“Matilda The Musical”) and Tony nominees Carmen Cusack (“Bright Star”), Zachary Levi (“She Loves Me”), Phillip Boykin (“The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess”) and Lauren Worsham (“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”), amazed critics.

Ben Brantley (New York Times) praised the “joyous” production as one “destined to be forever spoken of with misty-eyed bragging rights by anyone who sees it,” calling Gyllenhaal “radiant” and Ashford “a delight.” Ashford has been confirmed for the Broadway transfer, although no other casting has been announced.

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Based on the rave reviews for the concert, the upcoming revival seems poised to follow in the successful footsteps of its two other Broadway editions at the Tony Awards. The original staging in 1984 earned ten Tony nominations, including Best Musical, Best Actor (Mandy Patinkin), Best Actress (Bernadette Peters), Best Book, Best Score, and Best Direction, winning for Best Scenic Design (Tom Straiges) and Best Lighting Design (Richard Nelson). The Roundabout Theatre Company revival of the show in 2008 reaped 9 nominations, including Best Revival, Best Actor (Daniel Evans) and Best Actress (Jenna Russell), but walked away with no wins. Should Gyllenhaal win the Tony Award, he will be the first to do so for portraying Georges Seurat, one of the most challenging roles in Sondheim’s oeuvre.

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Although Gyllenhaal has never been nominated for a Tony Award, “Sunday” will not mark his first Broadway or New York stage appearance. Following his Off-Broadway debut in playwright Nick Payne’s “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet” (2012), the pair re-teamed for the Broadway production of “Constellations” (2014), which earned Gyllenhaal a Drama League nomination for Distinguished Performance. More recently, Gyllenhaal played the lead role of Seymour in a 2015 concert revival of “Little Shop of Horrors” at City Center opposite original cast member Ellen Greene, earning him praise from many critics including David Finkle (Huffington Post) who deemed Gyllenhaal a “revelation” who “sings as if a musical comedy veteran.”

Will the late addition of “Sunday” to the 2016-2017 Broadway season shake up the already crowded Best Revival of a Musical and Best Actor categories at the Tony Awards? Share your thoughts in our forums!

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