The International Writers Magazine:Musicals
Broadway goes Full Circle
Ben Macpherson on The Light in the Piazza'
Q, Wicked, Spelling Bee and The Light
In The Piazza'. Four new musicals to have graced the boards
on the Great White Way of late. Post 9/11 it seems that the escapist
value of the musical is returning, as seen in recent hit West
End imports such as The Producers, and political solemnity
in shows such as Assassins is so last season.
Whats more, The Light In The Piazza heralds a return
to roots for Broadway musical culture.
Michael Berresse Actor
Sarah Uriarte Berry Actor
Victoria Clark Actor
Patti Cohenour Actor
Beau Gravitte Actor
Mark Harelik Actor
Matthew Morrison Actor
Kelli O'Hara Actor
Produced by Lincoln
Center Theater under André Bishop and Bernard Gersten the show
is a nominal renaissance of the tradition seen in the musicals of Lerner
& Lowe and Rodgers and Hammerstein. More than that, it has a direct
link to the latter of these partnerships. With Book by Craig Lucas,
based on the novel by Elizabeth Spencer, is has a score by Adam Guettel,
none other than Richard Rodgers grandson.
With such strong roots in the culture of Broadways Golden Era,
it is no wonder that the tantalising score to this musical rings with
tinges of grandpa, and also Guettels mentor, the inimitable
genius Stephen Sondheim.
The story itself hasnt been out of print since 1960 and for those
who arent familiar with Elizabeth Spenser, David Garnet or Henry
James show us the way.
It concerns an American girl, Clara (Kelli O'Hara) who falls for
an Italian (Matthew Morrison) whilst travelling through Firenze.
Without summarising the entire narrative, the obvious complications
(and some not so) give this musical its dramatic tension. This would
be an appropriate juncture to admit not having actually seen the show,
but having read many a review and talked to people who have seen the
show, and owning the cast recording (on Nonesuch Records Inc.) I am
One thing seems perfectly clear. This show has no dramatic high-point;
nor need for any. Its story is its drama - a simple notion complicated
so much in the last few years by politically driven or socially aware
The score and performance bristle with rich evocative emotion; a musical
which sits firmly between South Pacific and The King and I
on one hand, and Aspects of Love and Passion on the other.
Fresh and sophisticated, with parts of the lyrics being sung only in
Italian, it verges on modern operetta, without the pretension of scores
such as Les Miserables or The Woman in White. It is a
good, solid story of love, and love alone. There are seemingly no hidden
agendas - just passion and emotion. When Claras first solo The
Beauty Is begins, one cannot help but think of a Dave Brubeck
piano arrangement being crossed with orchestral Sondheim. The rhythmic
piano is reminiscent of Another Hundred People from Sondheims
show Company, but the lyrical sentiments are neither as cynical, critical
or complex. Clara, played by the amazing Kelli OHara begins by
simply observing marble statues in the Piazza. "These are very
popular in Italy/ Its the land of naked marble boys/ Something
we dont see a lot in Winston-Salem". Good characterisation,
plain but suitably poetic lyrics and mature storytelling combine to
make a superb cast recording: a recording which leaves me wondering
what this show would be like to watch.
In an age when puppets dance in Avenue Q, overweight pole dancers
long for their big-break in Jerry Springer -The Opera,
and its joyously Springtime For Hitler in The
Producers; the last lines of Piazza sing a beautifully fresh
but delightfully familiar Broadway tune "Love if you can and be
loved/ May it last forever Clara/ The Light in the Piazza". Could
this new musical be the light of Broadway coming full circle? Grandpa
would have been so proud.
The Light In The
Piazza is currently playing at the Vivian Beaumont Theater
Playing to January 1, 2006
Running Time: 2hrs 15mins
Playing Schedule: Tues - Sat 8PM, Wed and Sat 2PM, Sun 3PM
Vivian Beaumont Theater 150 West 65th Street New York, NY 10023
Tickets: 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250
Price $65.00-$90.00 - check for discounts
Tuesday 8:00pm / Wednesday 2:00pm & 8:00pm / Thursday 8:00pm / Friday 8:00pm
/ Saturday 2:00pm & 8:00pm / Sunday 3:00pm Running Time: 2 hr. 30 min.
(includes 1 intermission)
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