Review Roundup: THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA at Encores!

The Light in the Piazza runs through June 25, 2023.

By: Jun. 22, 2023
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Review Roundup: THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA at Encores!
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Up next at New York City Center, the Encores! season continues with The Light in the Piazza, led by Tony winner Ruthie Ann Miles. Encores! The Light in the Piazza runs for seven performances only, through June 25, at New York City Center.

Miles is joined by Shereen Ahmed as Franca Naccarelli, Andréa Burns as Signora Naccarelli, Rodd Cyrus as Giuseppe Naccarelli, James D. Gish as Fabrizio Naccarelli, Ivan Hernandez as Signor Naccarelli, and introducing Anna Zavelson as Clara Johnson. Rob Berman, former Encores! Music Director, returns to lead The Encores! Orchestra for the production directed by Chay Yew with choreography by Parker Esse.

Heralded as a new direction for musical theater when it opened on Broadway, The Light in the Piazza follows an American mother and daughter on vacation in 1950s Florence, as they confront painful memories and life-changing opportunities alike. Buoyed by Adam Guettel's Tony-winning score and book by Tony winner Craig Lucas, director Chay Yew and Tony winner Ruthie Ann Miles embark on a deeply personal exploration, transmuting the musical's drama of encounter across barriers of language, culture, and ability into something as essential as it is revelatory.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Naveen Lumar, New York Times: Miles’s rich and precise vocals illuminate Guettel’s lush, poetic score, which is nimbly and gorgeously orchestrated ‌by Guettel, Ted Sperling‌‌ and Bruce Coughlin. (Listen for the lone clarinet that accompanies Margaret’s most intimate moments of introspection.) Miles also radiates wry intelligence, as an ‌astute mother hoping to rein in her daughter’s increasingly unbridled impulses, another aspect of the story heightened by casting the characters as Asian American.

Robert Hofler, The Wrap: This long-overdue revival is nothing less than vocally stunning, and the singer-actors do complete justice to this century’s greatest musical. I was going to write “greatest score,” but the real revelation of this Encores! production under the astute direction of Chay Yew is Lucas’ stage adaptation of the novel by Elizabeth Spencer. Lucas’ book is as light as the sun falling on the Arno River and as rock solid as the Ponte Vecchio itself.

Matt Windman, amNY: The Encores! production reminded me why I attended the Broadway production of “Piazza” at least four times – and why I felt so passionately about it back then. If it works out logistically and financially, it would be wonderful to have this production transfer to Broadway next season for a limited run – perhaps as a Roundabout Theatre Company revival at Studio 54.

Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: The luminous Ruthie Ann Miles (a Tony winner for Sher’s The King and I, currently playing the Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd) and sensational newcomer Anna Zavelson (a university student making her New York debut) are Margaret and Clara, a mother and daughter from Winston-Salem, N.C., on holiday in Florence. Clara is wide-eyed, vulnerable, and completely unguarded; Margaret is overprotective—rightly so. “She’s not quite as she seems. She’s very young for her age,” Margaret tactfully explains in one of her many audience asides, though she eventually reveals that at age 12 Clara was kicked by a Shetland pony. So when Clara is courted by a dashing Florentine named Fabrizio (James D. Gish), Margaret is understandably wary. Another sign to proceed with caution: There’s something of a spark between Margaret and Fabrizio’s even-more-dashing father, Signor Naccarelli (Ivan Hernandez).

Juan A. Ramirez, Theatrely: It’s true that this year’s hottest Pride ticket, with more heavenly visions and celestial voices than any disco, is City Center’s lush revival of The Light in the Piazza. Starring a top-of-her-game Ruthie Ann Miles as a cautious American woman visiting 1950s Florence with her lovelorn, developmentally disabled daughter, played by 19-year-old (!) Anna Zavelson in what might prove to be the biggest theatrical discovery of the decade. They are joined on Clint Ramos and Miguel Urbino’s airy set of colonnades, evocatively lit by David Weiner, that stretch into the painful past and onto the hopeful future, dividing and uniting its passionate inhabitants as they navigate the ruins of ancient love. A serendipitously wind-blown hat invites Italian charmer James D. Gish to enter the travelers’ itinerary, and his fiery sister-in-law Shereen Ahmed, mother Andrea Burns (in yet another Encores! homerun), and a uniformly excellent cast of wanderers and romantics round out their Florentine adventures.


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