Review Roundup: Renee Fleming, Dove Cameron, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and More in THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA
L.A. Opera presents The Light in the Piazza!Renée Fleming and Emmy winner Dove Cameron star as Margaret and Clara Johnson, two American tourists in Italy. Their grand vacation plans take an unexpected detour when young Clara is swept off her feet by a local charmer. Brian Stokes Mitchell plays the role of Signor Naccarelli, the debonair father of a wealthy Florentine family.
Tickets to The Light in the Piazza are on sale now. Tickets begin at $24 and can be purchased online at LAOpera.org, by phone at 213.972.8001, or in person at the LA Opera box office at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90012).
Let's see what the critics have to say!
Jordan Riefe, Hollywood Reporter: In a role for which veteran Victoria Clark won a Tony, Fleming occasionally finds her low range challenged, and yet the soprano soars, standing out in a cast of excellent singers. Her showstopper, "Dividing Day," follows a long-distance phone call home to husband Roy, a sufficiently surly Malcom Sinclair. Its mounting cadence and Fleming's precise phrasing and stirring delivery alone are almost worth the price of admission. Best known for her work on the Disney Channel, Cameron (who made her New York stage debut last year in Clueless: The Musical) shines as the fragile Clara, a role played previously by Celia Keenan-Bolger and Kelli O'Hara. Cameron warmly embodies the prospect of new love in the show's title song. Throughout, she walks the line between unsure and determined, tipping from the high of her scenes with Fabrizio into anguished unraveling in "Clara's Tirade."
Charles McNulty, LA Times: Fleming refashions in her own image Margaret Johnson, the well-heeled American mother traveling with her adult daughter in Italy and guarding this young woman with a heartbreaking secret. On the musical's long journey from its Broadway beginnings at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where the L.A. Opera presentation of this latest revival had its opening on Saturday, Margaret has become quite glamorous, a romantic heroine ready at a moment's notice to break out of the conventional confines of her story.
Maureen Lee Lenker, EW: Cameron flutters like a butterfly through Act 1 totally captivated by the young man who has won her heart in an instant and insinuated himself into her life - which her mother sees instantly as a threat to their stability. It's in Act 2 that Clara shows Fabrizio's family and her mother that she's got some real spine under her light summer frock. Cameron's bright Broadway-style voice blends nicely with Houchen's even if his Italian accent is nondescript.
Maria Nokin, BroadwayWorld: As Clara, Dove Cameron had a huge part which she handled with seeming ease. Her singing was less operatic than Fleming's, but it fit her part as the ingenue. She sang her high notes perfectly but with no vibrato until their very end and that worked well for her character. As Fabrizio, tenor Rob Houchen sang with a sweet lyric tone and made a fine beau for Clara. Malcolm Sinclair was sadly unsympathetic as Clara's father, while Brian Stokes Mitchell was thoroughly Italianate as the progenitor of the Naccarelli family. As Franca, Celinde Schoenmaker evoked both laughter and tears. Marie McLaughlin sang like the beloved opera diva she is and spoke understandably.
Patrick Mack, Parterre: I especially want to praise the work of the LA Opera orchestra here, 38 musicians under the direction of Kimberly Grisby. Here's the thing that hit me the hardest last night. When Piazza was first televised it was nearly at the 500 performance mark (I have a bootleg I enjoy regularly) but I don't care how skilled any performer or musician is there's a point when routine sets in and habits, even if they're good ones, become second nature.
Victoria Looseleaf, SF Classical Voice: Ably directed here by Daniel Evans, with a curved half-ruined wall of a set by Robert Jones that's akin to a Getty Villa wannabe, the problem with Piazza is not with the singing: Emmy award-winning Disney TV and film star Dove Cameron (who's got more than 30 million Instagram followers) sails through her often frenetic moods with vocal ease. A commanding Rob Houchen, as 20-year-old Fabrizio, brings oomph to his tunes, even if his big infatuation number is delivered in Italian. (Supertitles are in English, save for this, with portions of the score sung in Italian or, worse, - broken English.) Indeed, add the powerful baritone presence of Broadway stalwart Brian Stokes Mitchell - still going strong at 61 as Fabrizio's father, Signor Naccarelli - and this theater piece would seem to be a winner.
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