Regional Reviews: Seattle
Piazza Re-Lights at the Paramount
Also see David's interview with Christine Andreas
Based on Elisabeth Spencer's novella, which became a rather glossy but still entertaining Olivia de Havilland film at MGM in 1962, The Light In The Piazza, set primarily in Florence, Italy, 1953, is a testament to the power of love and allowing for life's small miracles. Margaret Johnson, a still vivacious Southern matron, and her charming, childlike, twenty-something daughter Clara are on vacation in Florence, where Clara falls wildly in love with the charming and handsome Fabrizio Naccarelli, son of a suave shop owner. Margaret's protectiveness towards Clara, born from the accident that left her daughter frozen in time at the emotional (though not physical) level of a pre-teen, leads to her obvious attempts to keep the budding romance from flowering, and eventually, after many unexpected turns both comic and nearly tragic, Margaret helps her daughter fight for what may be a once in a lifetime shot at love and marriage.
Broadway veteran Christine Andreas is vocally and emotionally riveting as Margaret, a role quite different from the musical comedy heroines she essayed early in her career. If not as natural a fit in the role as Victoria Clark was, Andreas is still an exceptional presence, hitting wonderful moments of both comedy and pathos. With her passionate "Dividing Day" and soaring final number "Fable" she earns the standing ovation she receives. Katie Rose Clark, who played Clara following O'Hara at Lincoln center, is beguiling, funny and blessed with a shimmeringly lovely soprano that sits ideally on Guettel's songs for Clara, especially the title song. She is well matched with David Burnham, who in any language is a splendid Fabrizio, and glorious when he sings the lovely "Love to Me, " "Il Mondo Era Vuoto" (in perfect Italian), and then duets with Clarke on "Say it Somehow" or"Passeggiata."
Offering solid support as the fiery and funny Naccarelli clan are David Ledingham, sensual and debonair as Fabrizio's father; Diana DiMarzio earning laughs as Fabrizio's mother who sometimes addresses the audience in flawless English; Wendi Bergamini, as the splendidly pouty daughter-in-law Franca; and Jonathan Hammond a perfect handsome dolt as older but not wiser son (and cad) Giuseppe.
Michael Butterell's musical staging adds just enough movement to this essentially dance-free musical, while Ted Sperling and Adam Guettel's orchestrations are as magical as ever. The sound at the Paramount rose to the occasion, supporting the actors voices and not losing any lyrics. The rightfully Tony-winning sets by Michael Yeargan have been reconfigured admirably from the Lincoln Center stage to the more conventional proscenium configuration for the tour, and still benefit from the graceful lighting design by Christopher Akerlind. Catherine Zuber's gorgeous costumes capture the time and place of the story with effortless grace.
The Light in the Piazza runs through April 29, 2007 at the Paramount Theater, 911 Pine Street. For more information, visit www.theparamount.com.
- David-Edward Hughes