Review Roundup: Renee Fleming, Solea Pfeiffer in THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA in Chicago
The Light in the Piazza at Lyric Opera House stars four-time Grammy Award winner and Tony Award nominee Renée Fleming. The limited holiday engagement runs through Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019.
The production is directed by multiple Olivier Award-winning director Daniel Evans and features the Lyric Opera Orchestra under the baton of Kimberly Grigsby, conductor of the original Broadway production. Fleming and rising West End star Rob Houchen (Les Misérables) earned raves for their performances in The Light in the Piazza in LA and London, with Houchen receiving a BroadwayWorld UK Award for Best Supporting Actor in a New Production of a Musical. For this special Chicago engagement, they are joined by three-time Olivier Award winner Alex Jennings (Netflix's The Crown) and rising star Solea Pfeiffer (Almost Famous, Hamilton).
Tickets for the limited holiday engagement of The Light in the Piazza at Chicago's Lyric Opera House (20 N. Wacker Drive) start at $35 and are on sale now. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.lightinthepiazzathemusical.com.
In The Light in the Piazza, Margaret Johnson (Fleming) embarks on a fateful trip to Florence with her daughter Clara (Pfeiffer) in the summer of 1953. A gust of wind whisks Clara's hat into the hands of local dreamer Fabrizio Naccarelli (Houchen) and it's love at first sight-but Clara isn't quite what she appears. Soon her mother is faced with a heart-wrenching decision, and they must all confront a secret that's been kept in the shadows for far too long.
Based on the novel by Elizabeth Spencer, The Light in the Piazza book is by Craig Lucas, with music and lyrics by Adam Guettel. Scenario Two's production of The Light in the Piazza is directed by Olivier Award winner and critically acclaimed musicals expert Daniel Evans and designed by Robert Jones, with costumes by Brigitte Reiffenstuel, movement by Lucy Hind, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Kai Harada.
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: If you know Victoria Clark's Tony Award-winning performance as Margaret, you'll find Fleming quite different. Clark's Margaret was more dominant in the narrative, more focused on worrying about Clara; Fleming takes a different tack, forging a more insecure character whose natural inclination is to set her daughter free and yet who fears that both generations of women are lost in a mist of confusion. Fleming is, of course, also a very different kind of singer, and her presence also emphasizes the intentional clash of styles in Guettel's work between the vocal conventions of one wartime generation (the excellent British actor Alex Jennings is on hand as Signor Naccarelli, Fabrizio's very involved father), and the jazzier experimentation of their children, enjoying the dividends of a new post-war freedom.
Kyle MacMillan, Chicago Sun-Times: As would be expected, Fleming handles her singing with aplomb, especially Margaret's final defiant solo, "Fable." But more impressive is her first-rate acting and magnetic stage presence, as she brings a sense of authenticity and poignant vulnerability to this role to which she so clearly feels an affinity.
Alan Bresloff, Around Town Chicago: Yes, at the Lyric, there is a large orchestra and a dynamic cast! They have a set that is absolutely stunning, and yet, I miss the intimacy of the story. The story, for those of you who have never read or seen it is a lovely one with music that is highly romantic. The story takes place in 1953 as Margaret Johnson ( Renee Fleming brings her wonderful voice to The Lyric) brings her daughter, Clara ( an amazingly brilliant Solea Pfeiffer) to Florence Italy. As they are in the Piazza, the wind blows her hat off and it is retrieved by a local young man Fabrizio ( deftly handled by Rob Houchen) and as their eyes meet, it is love at first sight. Here is where the intimacy of the smaller theater pays off. It is difficult to see the emotion in the vast auditorium. By the way, the wind gust was not very creative. Little TheoUbique did it much better.
Irene Hsiao, New City Stage: Half the evening is whiled away in the slow dance of courtship, the true sweat of which is undertaken by Margaret and Fabrizio's father, called Signor Naccarelli (Alex Jennings), because Signora N doesn't speak English, Mr. Johnson stayed home in North Carolina, and Clara and Fabrizio were a done deal from day one. Then the big reveal (delivered in awkward direct address by Margaret to the audience): Clara was kicked in the head by a pony on her twelfth birthday and has thus failed to develop mentally since that time. But no one seems to think this is a problem except Margaret, since Clara looks and acts just like your basic ingénue and Fabrizio et al are fine with it. I mean, who wouldn't want a wife with the brain of a preteen in the body of a woman? Yet Fabrizio gets his cake and eats it, too: he accepts Clara despite her "handicap," so now he's a hero. Long live the patriarchy.
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