In 1884, a fictional Georges Seurat is sketching studies for what is considered by many to be his masterpiece, "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte." His longtime mistress and model, Dot, sings of the frustrations of her vocation ("Sunday In The Park With George"). Meanwhile, an Old Lady and her Nurse discuss the changes being made to Paris to make way for the upcoming construction of a tower for the International Exposition.
The setting is abruptly changed to an art gallery, where Seurat's first painting is on display. Jules, a more successful artist and a friend of Georges', and his wife Yvonne discuss the flaws with Georges' 'mechanical' work ("No Life"). The painting is removed, and we are again on the island. After a short discussion with Georges, Jules and Yvonne depart, taking their coachman Franz with them, interrupting Franz' rendezvous with the Nurse.
In the studio, Dot powders her face in time with Georges painting the "dots" on his current work ("Color And Light"). Georges tells Dot that he can't take her to the Follies as he has to continue work on his painting, his obsession being made even more clear through his cold dismissal.
In the park, George sketches a grumpy Boatman. Dot enters on the arm of Louis, a baker. Two chatting shopgirls, both named Celeste, notice Dot with a new man, and comment in "Gossip", joined by the Boatman, and the Old Lady and her Nurse. Georges paints a dog, soon taking the voice of two dogs in thinking what the dogs might enjoy ("The Day Off"), and is joined by others in the park. Jules and Yvonne enter during the song and mock the unconventional nature of George's art, before protesting against the new initiative to have his work included in the next group show.
The two Celestes try to attract the attention of a handsome Soldier and his companion; Franz and his wife Frieda argue with Jules and Yvonne's daughter, Louise; Jules returns to further lecture Georges on his shortcomings as an artist. The Boatman returns and laments the condescending attitude of artists. Georges leaves the park just as Dot and Louis enter, as Dot explains about Georges's replacement ("Everybody Loves Louis"). The two Celestes and the Soldier sing a short trio, as the shopgirls fight over the more handsome of the military pair ("The One On The Left").
As the park empties for the evening, Georges returns and tells of missing Dot, and laments that his art has alienated him from those important to him ("Finishing The Hat"). Dot reveals that she is pregnant and tells Georges that she and Louis are getting married and leaving for America with a young couple they have met, "Mr." and "Mrs.". She asks for the painting of her that he once made, but he refuses.
Jules and Yvonne come to the studio, and while Yvonne and Dot talk apart about the alienating nature of artists, Jules and Georges discuss Georges's painting in progress, with Jules heatedly telling Georges that his methods are wrong. They leave, and Dot and Georges examine their failed relationship ("We Do Not Belong Together").
In the park, Georges and his mother, the Old Lady, sadly reminisce about the changes that are being made to the park ("Beautiful"). The Celestes and the Soldier argue about their recent falling out with their respective companions, while Jules and Frieda enter to have a clandestine affair in the park. Little Louise informs her mother, Yvonne, of her father's infidelity and a fight breaks out between Jules, Yvonne, Franz, and Frieda. While this conflict is developing, the Celestes and the Soldier are also squabbling noisily, as are the Boatman, Dot, and all the other characters of the park; all except the Old Lady, who tells Georges to remember to connect with his art.
Georges begins to control the subjects of his painting, moving them gracefully into their positions for the painting, replacing their disagreements with beautiful harmony ("Sunday"). Georges freezes the scene in its perfect position, in a tableau of the characters which perfectly mimics his painting.
The second act opens on the characters-still in the same tableau ("It's Hot Up Here"). They are quite literally trapped in the painting forever, unable to move. To make matters worse, each of them is fading away as the dots that compose them disappear. The characters each deliver short eulogies about Georges's sudden death at the age of 31.
When all the characters of the painting have disappeared, the action fast-forwards one hundred years later, to 1984, where Georges and Dot's great-grandson, also named George and also a struggling artist, is unveiling his latest artistic work at an art museum; a color and light machine called 'Chromolume #7', which is an artistic reflection on the painting from the first act.
Helping George through the presentation of the piece are his grandmother (George and Dot's daughter) Marie, his technician Dennis, his composer Naomi Eisen, and the museum director Bob Greenberg. Following the presentation various patrons and curators congratulate George on his work, while George moves seamlessly between them, struggling to keep them all happy with the many different sides of his personality. All the characters join together discussing the troubles of creating modern art ("Putting It Together"). After most of the museum's patrons have vacated, Marie contemplates about the significance of leaving a legacy ("Children And Art").
Weeks later, George has been invited by the French government to do a presentation of the Chromolume on the island where the painting was made, and since Marie has died, he has brought the grammar book that Dot learned from, handed down from generation to generation, as something to remember her by. He reads the notes in the back of the book, referring to the earlier George, and thinks about the similarities between himself and his great-grandfather (Lesson #8).
In a surreal moment, a fantasy Dot appears and discusses 'her' book with George. George and this vision of Dot sing together, as she tells him to stop caring about the criticisms leveled at his Chromolumes and continue working for his own benefit ("Move On"). As George continues to read the words that Seurat used to utter so often while working, more and more characters from the original painting fill the stage, until they join together, demonstrating George's longing for harmony, and the artistic memory of his great-grandfather ("Sunday").
Finally, all the characters leave, as George reads the final words of his counterpart, until he sees that Dot too has disappeared, and he is left with simply a blank canvas, and so many possibilities.
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