Music and Lyrics by Adam Guettel
Directed by Fred Anzevino
and Brenda Didier
Music Direction by Jeremy Ramey
Produced by Theo Ubique Caabaret Theatre
At No Exit Cage, Chicago
Intimate, moving and heartfelt chamber operetta, The Light in the Piazza, is a joyous treat!
Perhaps it is the intimate venue with the smart set (design by Adam Veness); perhaps it is the excellent cast; perhaps it is the charming chamber orchestra consisting of a piano, cello, harp and violin; perhaps all of the above contributed to a most engaging and beautiful production of Lucas and Guettel’s musical – The Light in the Piazza?
I must confess that I have never been a real fan of this show finding it an over-produced little show trying to be a big musical. The material begs to be an intimate chamber piece set it a small space with honest actors with strong vocal chops. That is exactly what co-directors Fred Anzevino and Brenda Didier have done with their most fulfilling production of The Light in the Piazza.
Set in Florence and Rome in 1953, The Light in the Piazza, finds a young American girl and he mother are sight-seeing in Florence when the girl becomes smitten by a young charming Italian boy. The mother, Margaret (Kelli Harrington), opposes the affair for reasons that gradually become clear. Clara (Rachel Klippel) is so girlish and innocent that we instantly lover her. The shy, yet determined Italian young, man, Fabrizio (Justin Adair), instantly falls for the bright-eyed American girl. Sparks fly!
But mother is determined to stop the affair just as Clara and Fabrizio are determined to continue their quest for each other. When the American’s meet the Naccarelli family, Margaret slowly realizes that Clara seems to fit it with this respectful family. She slowly agonizes about Clara being “a special child” since she was hit in the head by a pony at her 12th birthday party. But she also realizes that Clara deserves a happy life better that her own unhappy life.
Told through a lush and richly textured score with sophisticated lyrics and emotional enduring feel, music director and pianist Jeremy Ramey has assembled a tuneful chamber orchestra to accompany the cast. The Americans use an authentic Southern accent and the Italians each speak in authentic Italian and rich Italian accents when speaking English.
From Justin Adair’s emotionally rich love ballad in Italian, we see who smitten a young man can get. Adair’s fine vocals and boyish charm are winning. Rachel Klippel’s innocence together with her fine voice makes for a empathetic character. We cheer for Clara. But the show is anchored by the strong performance by Keli Harrington as Margaret. Her emotionally wrenching songs underscore her angst, her fear, and her under-loved spirit. Harrington is terrific here. The supporting cast led by Michael Kingston as Signor Naccarelli add fine honest performances to this splendid intimate chamber musical.
Once more Theo Ubique finds a way to mount a full-throttle musical in that small venue originally designed to be a cabaret club. It is now a home for sophisticated, plush musicals that speak and look right into your eyes and heart. The power of intimate musicals is manifest in all its glory at the No Exit Cafe. Experience The Light in the Piazza and you’ll be hooked.
For more info checkout The Light in the Piazza page at theatreinchicago.com
At No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood, Chicago, IL, call 773-347-1109, www.theo-u.org, tickets $29 – $34, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, sundaes at 7pm, running time 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through April 29, 2012