The Light in the Piazza looks as fabulous as it sounds and feels
Book by Craig Lucas. Music and lyrics by Adam Guettel. Directed by Peter Jorgensen. Presented by Patrick Street Productions. At the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre on Tuesday, September 20. Continues until October 9
A grown-up musical. What a pleasure.
In The Light in the Piazza, which is adapted from Elizabeth Spencer’s 1960 novella, it’s 1953 and Mrs. Margaret Johnson is touring Italy with her young adult daughter Clara. When Clara becomes smitten with a young Florentine named Fabrizio, Margaret intervenes, insisting that Clara is too innocent for romance. But is Margaret being overprotective?
The musical’s sensibility is bittersweet. We must continue to lean out for love, it seems to say, even though its promise of lasting fulfillment is a lie. In “Dividing Day”, Margaret, who is in an unhappy marriage, sings “I can see the winter in your eyes.”
Adam Guettel, who wrote the music and lyrics, is Richard Rodgers’s grandson, but, rather than hummable songs, Guettel’s score, which is impeccably played here by a five-piece ensemble under the direction of Sean Bayntun, pours out in operatic waves of complex emotion.
Director Peter Jorgensen’s production is virtually flawless.
Adrian Marchuk’s Fabrizio is so handsome, so honestly passionate and goofily charming, who wouldn’t fall in love with him? Singing in his buoyant tenor to a frightened Clara, he delivers “Love to Me” with such tenderness that, on opening night, he had me bawling. With her clear soprano and committed, nuanced acting, Samantha Hill is equally perfect as Clara. Her performance of the title song is another emotional highlight. And that’s partly because Katey Wright’s Margaret is watching her. Wright’s Margaret doesn’t make a peep in this number; she is simply quietly astonished at the depth that love has awakened in the daughter that Margaret had thought limited. Throughout, Wright’s work is deliciously ripe: rich-voiced, witty, and mature, it’s one of the finest performances you’ll see all year.
There’s excellent support as well, especially from Daren Herbert as Fabrizio’s brother Giuseppe, Dana Luccock as Giuseppe’s wife Franca, and David Adams as Fabrizio’s dangerously charming father, Signor Naccarelli.
The designers have made sure that this production looks as fabulous as it sounds and feels. Lance Cardinal’s set, a series of gigantic picture frames, transforms elegantly to suggest multiple locations. Alan Brodie’s lighting highlights the musical’s warmth and wit. And costumer Jessica Dmytryshyn offers a series of dresses so pretty that they make you want to time travel.
It’s mysterious that neither the Playhouse nor the Arts Club picked up The Light in the Piazza, which opened on Broadway in 2005. It’s a blessing that the small but ambitious Patrick Street Productions has done so, and with such great success.