Geeks Review Books: “Putting It Together: How Stephen Sondheim and I Created ‘Sunday in the Park with George'”

Putting It Together: How Stephen Sondheim and I Created “Sunday in the Park with George”
By James Lapine
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 9780374200091
416 Pages

Review by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON, Mass. — The world is on fire right now: Texas has nearly outlawed abortion access. The women and girls of Afghanistan are being systematically stripped of their human rights as the world watches. There is still a pandemic and not nearly enough people are getting vaccinated. People in Louisiana don’t have electric power. The West Coast is experiencing a severe drought. The people of Haiti are still recovering from a devastating earthquake on August 14. But, we’re still expected to behave like everything is okay. Things aren’t okay. 

I made a promise to post a book review in exchange for a copy of Putting It Together: How Stephen Sondheim and I Created “Sunday in the Park with George.”  It was difficult to read this book. It isn’t the book’s fault that extenuating circumstances made focus of any kind difficult. August was a difficult month. The book itself is great. 

Putting It Together: How Stephen Sondheim and I Created “Sunday in the Park with George” is a book by writer and director James Lapine on the genesis and exegesis of creating the famous musical with Stephen Sondheim about the paining “Un dimanche après-midi à l’Ile de la Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat. 

Lapine thoroughly investigates and interviews the people who lived (and a few who died) the creation of Sunday in the Park with George. From Bernadette Peters to Sondheim to Brent Spiner to the costuming intern who never worked on Broadway again, Lapine paints a picture of the successes and failures of writing a musical with Sondheim in the 1980s. 

The interviews are conversational: quirky, funny, and casual. One can hear the interviewees speaking to Lapine. Lapine’s writing flows like journalism. It is often intimate in tone and subject, but Lapine’s expression of the musical’s previously untold tales are professionally done.  

Chapters are short and organized to make the book easy to pick up and put down again. It includes a “Prelude” by Lapine but no special into from Sondheim.    

Anyone who loves Sondheim’s work should add this to their collection. It’s a no-brainer for Sondheim scholars. Same for theatre or arts journalists. 

Curious readers, the ones who will read this book once and then never refer back to it, should ask for a copy at their library. Putting It Together comes in eBook form. Ask your library for both. 

The book includes a transcript of the script and song lyrics of Sunday in the Park with George.

Also of Note: Putting It Together refers to the 1999 musical review of Sondheim’s songs. 
Putting It Together (1999 Broadway Version)
In this Sondheim revue, two couples reflect on the complexities of modern relationships. Putting It Together is a musical revue showcasing the songs of Stephen Sondheim. Drawing its title from a song in Sunday in the Park with George, it celebrates Sondheim’s incomparable career in musical theatre.

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