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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
The Light in the Piazza
Written in the post World War II years, the story is also on the cusp of a new era. Margaret believes her daughter might have a successful marriage with Fabrizio because his family still hold the pre-feminist views of a woman’s place in the home. They are delighted with Clara’s simplicity. S"o much of what we hear and read about American young women is not what we would consider to be the right kind of woman for our son," says Signor Naccarelli. Margaret’s husband Roy back in the States disputes the ethics of the marriage. It’s a story that wouldn’t hold water in most of today’s world with its evolving attitudes towards the equality of women. An excellent movie version was scripted in 1962 by Julius Epstein, author of Casablanca, starring Olivia de Havilland, Rossano Brazzi, a luminous Yvette Mimieux who played Clara with the purity of a Della Loggia Madonna and a miscast George Hamilton as Fabrizio.
Craig Lucas, who wrote the musical’s book, has wisely shifted the emphasis to Margaret’s scrutiny of her daughter’s blossoming in her first relationship and her gradual belief that her daughter can cope in this sheltered world where she will live with a big Italian family who loves her. Guettel’s music reflects the strangeness of Clara’s mind and sets some of his lyrics in Italian. One almost expects to hear opera but the voices are strictly musical theatre caliber.
Michael Yeargan’s sets embrace the towering marble pillars and statues that embody Italy and Christopher Akerlind’s lighting is as mellow as a Tuscan afternoon. Catherine Zuber’s costumes reflect the elegant femininity of the era, with full skirts for the girls and mid-calf pencil-thin suit skirts for the women. Director Bartlett Sher emphasizes the operatic nature of the musical and the passion and leisure that reflect Italian society in that era.
This Los Angeles production is well served by Christine Andreas whose mellow voice and determination capture the pivotal role of Margaret and Elena Shaddow whose delicate soprano colors the image of Clara as an image from a Renaissance painting. David Burnham brings a welcome coltish quality to Fabrizio and Laura Griffith is outstanding and simmering as his voluptuous sister-in-law Franca. Jonathan Hammond brings out the humor in Guiseppe, Fabrizio’s brother, and David Ledingham lends a manipulative suppleness to Signor Naccarelli. Diane Sutherland contributes a dulcet voice to the thankless role of his Signora. Charming and unique, this musical is another step forward in the career being carved out by Adam Guettel.
For a song list, see CurtainUp editor Elyse Sommer's review of the play's debut production at Lincoln Center: TheLight in the Piazza/New York
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater