note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey
It’s not often that the lighting designer gets top billing but this musical is called THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA---and what radiant, golden hues (supplied by Karen Perlow) illuminate the young lovers in Scott Edmiston’s shimmering production for SpeakEasy Stage (through Oct. 18th).
I just saw the film again on Turner Classic Movies. (Both the movie and the musical are based on the novella by Elizabeth Spencer.) I wasn’t impressed back in the ‘60s by its ‘50s sensibilities when it emerged on the cusp of the “Age of Aquarius” but this time I found the story immensely moving and genuinely sweet---and George Hamilton pretty impressive, believe it or not! The musical (book by Craig Lucas; lyrics and music by Adam Guettel) embraces the love story with all its Sturm and Drang but it’s Lucas who makes the characters sparkle. We even like the mother (Amelia Broome), with her cheeky asides to the audience, despite her efforts to break up her daughter’s holiday romance with a handsome Italian (John Bambery).
Bambery is the charismatic Florentine who captures the heart of the innocent, childlike Clara (Erica Spyres). After his Italian aria declaring his love, the crowd at the BCA cheered as if we were at an opera not a musical, such is the power of his voice—and persona. Many of the songs are sung in Italian, this being Italy after all. Carolynne Warren has one of the best, and funniest, moments in the show, translating a tumultuous quintet for us.
Jose Delgado does a heroic job as music director: The devilishly difficult score is part opera (my favorite part), part new music (Think Hans Werner Henze!) and part Sondheim (The “Fable” song sounds like it wandered over from INTO THE WOODS.) See LIGHT for Bambery’s luminous performance and for Charles Schoonmaker’s breathtaking period costumes. Who knew the ‘50s looked that good!