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a must see! (though not without a couple of issues for me)
Last Edit: Chazwaza 06:51 pm EDT 10/18/19
Posted by: Chazwaza 06:43 pm EDT 10/18/19
In reply to: Light in the Piazza--Los Angeles - showtunetrivia 11:04 am EDT 10/18/19

I was basically in my own little musical theater heaven seeing this ravishing and somewhat weird show again. I had high expectations for the score, which were mostly met or exceeded by the stunning singers and orchestra -- the singing standouts were by far Dove Cameron and Rob Houchen (Fabrizio), who were the most able to take my breath away with their voices while not letting their... technique?... get in the way of an organic sound or the melody as written, which was sadly a problem for Renee. She just does not have a voice suited to musical theater, including the majority of Margaret's material. Obviously she has an unbelievable voice but I think it's really not a good match most of the time. You can hear her trying to be more casual, but she can't quite do it. It's like her voice just operates in a different... register... always? I dunno. But I'd say her acting was even better than her singing. She is no Victoria Clark, and there were a lot of colors and nuances in the acting that were not up to par with Clark. But overall I was thoroughly impressed with her acting and her accent.

It is a unit set which is hard not to be disappointed by after the broadway production, but who can expect that. (But when you're in a major opera house, it's hard not to expect some cool set design) But too much to expect or not, you did lose the sense of Florence, the set could have been any small town in Italy. It's made up for often by the stunning tilted circular "ceiling" painted like the sky, like the birth of man, that sits above the proceedings. But the background during the entire show, behind the unit set, is black. No backdrops, no screen changing colors. In some ways it's beautiful, in some ways lacking.
But one especially weird handicap of the set design was the inability to have Clara's hat taken by "the wind", and instead they had other random people take the hat off her head as she sort of feigned it flying off, and they passed it around hand to hand until it got to Fabrizio. Sort of clever but visually it was confusing if you didn't know it was supposed to be the wind, and I think confuses a very important moment in the show.

The other main issue I had, and I think it's an important on, a vastly more important than the beautiful but limited set, is that Mr. Johnson (Margaret's husband back in Winston-Salem) was cast quite old and looks and plays the role like a classic Texas oil business man, the disapproving daddy. If you didn't tell me it was her husband I'd have assumed it was her father she didn't get along with. There was no sense of him being someone she ever was in love with or attracted to. This is very different than how the LCT production presented him and their story and I think it really hurts Margaret's journey and the motivations and points it is making. Big mistake, I think.

Beyond that, and the occasional missed beat or stepped on lyric because an opera singer isn't used to speaking/singing for this kind of work or for an audience who knows the language of the show.... it was a really fantastic production.

And I can't say enough about how good Dove Cameron and Rob Houchen were!

Oh and Stokes was also good! A little too cartoonish Italian at times, as were the rest of his family, at times. Actually come to think of it, the whole Italian family was played a bit too much on the trashy side, for humor, than suits the show, and it fights Margaret feeling good about the family her daughter wants to marry into. Especially given how protective and prim Margaret is at the beginning. And Franca and Giuseppe are played too much as a cartoonish trashy Italian couple - it's perhaps a weakness in the writing, but playing it up even more doesn't help except for some cheaper laughs. (also for some reason the director decided Fabrizio's mother was in mourning the whole show, wearing black in every scene)

But over all... splendid, and the piece was very well served (apart from the big issue of Mr. Johnson).

Go see it if you're in CA.
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