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The Light in the Piazza

a Musical
by Craig Lucas (book), Adam Guettel (songs)

COMPANY : Theatrical Outfit [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Balzer Theatre @ Herren's [WEBSITE]
ID# 4883

SHOWING : April 14, 2016 - May 15, 2016



In 1953, Margaret Johnson of Winston-Salem is on holiday in Italy when dashing Fabrizio falls fast for her daughter, Clara. As the courtship races, Margaret must reveal a family secret or summon the courage to consent to marriage. Themes of sacrifice, destiny and the effervescence of first love ripple through this lush period musical. Adapted from the novella by Elizabeth Spencer with a score by Adam Guettel (grandson of composer Richard Rodgers), this winner of six Tony Awards transports audiences to sunshine-filled Tuscany and into the hearts of some of musical theatre’s most endearing characters.

Director Richard Garner
Musical Director Ali Lingenfelter
Lighting Designer Joseph Futral
Ensemble Rose Alexander
Margaret Johnson Christy Baggett
Ensemble Jessica DeMaria
Signora Naccarelli Carolyn Dorff
Ensemble Chaz Duffy
Franca Naccarelli Randi Garza
Priest/Ensemble Steven L. Hudson
Roy Johnson/Ensemble Chris Kayser
Fabrizio Naccarelli Tim Quartier
Signor Naccarelli Michael Strauss
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Vedere la Luce
by playgoer
Sunday, April 17, 2016
"The Light in the Piazza" combines a lush score by Adam Guettel with an affecting storyline dramatized by Craig Lucas. When you add in the voices and performances in Theatrical Outfit’s production, the result is intoxicating magic, as conjured by director Richard Garner.

The production isn’t perfect, marred in terms of audio by subtly sour violin accompaniment and by an unsophisticated sound system that amplifies without modifying extremes. Visually, the production suffers from Kat Conley’s uninspired set design, which uses sliding half-arch panels to suggest different locations. The panels and stage are painted ochre, to evoke Florence, Italy, and this dull color is washed over by the pallid projections designed by Rob Dillard. Pre-show and at intermission, the projections spill over from panel to panel in vertigo-inspiring fashion; at other times, the projections are soft-focused in a static spot on the panels, looking as visually underwhelming as the two-dimensional "sculptures" featured in museum scenes.

Joseph A. Futral’s lighting design frequently backlights the panels, revealing their diagonal support framing, which at least is more appealing than the ochre paint. The lighting attempts to be atmospheric, changing frequently from scene to scene, but not always lighting all the action occurring on the stage. Linda Patterson’s costumes are the visual highlight of the show, firmly setting the action in 1953.

Performances across the board are superb, from ensemble to leads, and the action moves smoothly with Mr. Garner’s fluid blocking. The entire Naccarelli family shines, from suave father Michael Strauss to salt-of-the-earth Italian mother Carolyn Dorff to unappreciated son Joe Knezevich to love-starved daughter-in-law Randi Garza to golden-voiced bachelor son Tim Quartier. They are more than matched by the North Carolina mother-daughter pair traveling in Italy – the statuesque and expressive Christy Baggett and the enchanting, silvery-voiced Devon Hales. All are expertly cast and add touches that show their commitment to their well-defined roles.

Marianne Fraulo deserves copious praise too, for her consultation on the Italian language. Along with dialect coach Elisa Carlson, she has provided the Naccarellis and minor Italian characters with totally believable (and understandable) vocabulary and accents. It’s rare that an American cast can so convincingly portray foreigners without tell-tale mispronunciations.

The precision of the direction, acting, and singing outweigh the lackluster set and disappointing musical accompaniment. "The Light in the Piazza" may not have a hummable score, but the spell of its sweeping music lasts long after the final moments of the show. It transports the audience to Italy through the magic of musical theatre and lets the memory of the trip linger in the imagination. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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