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BWW Review: THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA Shines in Melbourne


For Melbourne audiences this chilly spring, The Light in the Piazza is the musical we had no idea we would love.

The little known, Tony award winning musical with music & lyrics by Adam Guettel and book by Craig Lucas, is gorgeously directed by Theresa Borg and is playing the Arts Centre Playhouse until the 6th November.

The narrative of The Light in the Piazza started its life as a novel by ElizaBeth Spencer, went on to become a 1960s film featuring Gloria Dehavilland and Rossano Brazzi, and is now the soaring chamber opera/musical that will have you laughing at one line and crying at the next.

We first meet Margaret and her daughter Clara in Florence, on holiday and in awe of the romantic setting of the square. Naked statues, friendly locals, exquisite fashion, and plaques to commemorate monks being burned alive. Enter Fabrizio Naccarelli, a starry eyed Italian who falls immediately in love with the innocent Clara. Their love is thwarted at every turn by protective parents but each character connected to this affair endures their own journey of discovery.

Genevieve Kingsford is utterly perfect as Clara with a voice to melt every heart in the auditorium. Her voice soars and the beauty of the show is heavily attributed to her. On top of her exceptional vocals, her acting ability to swing from sweet and innocent to tortured and dismayed is seamless. She is a real talent and a shining star in this show. Sublime casting of both Kingsford and Jonathan Hickey as Fabrizio Naccarelli.

Jonathan Hickey hooks the audience with a torch song for Clara sung entirely in Italian "Il Mondo Era Vuoto". As the fourth song of the musical, following Kingsford's equally superb "The Beauty Is", it concretes the exceptional quality of our two leading lovers. Hickey is passionate and charming as Fabrizio. There is no doubt as to why Clara feels the way she does about him!

These two leads could be enough to steal the show but then there's Chelsea Plumley. Plumley is simply sublime as Margaret, as the mother of Clara with the biggest journey of all. She is perfectly mid-western in the first act, as she protects her daughter from the terrors of judgement and disapproval. The growth she gives Margaret throughout the show is wonderful and her comedy is spot on every time. Deserving of her standing ovation!

Josh Piterman is devilishly cheeky as the big brother Giuseppe and his vocals added a lovely blend to moments with Hickey's Fabrizio and Anton Berezin's Signor Naccarelli. Berezin's father figure is an enchanting blend of warmth and tradition.

Johanna Allen is commanding as Signora Naccarelli and her blunt translations of her families hysterics in the opening of the second act is just marvellous. Allen's beautiful voice is just as commanding as her brilliant acting.

The dark horse of the show is the wife of Giuseppe, Franca Naccarelli. With the solo "The Joy You Feel", Madison Green haunts you with the emotions her scorned character is battling with, coupled with an incredible classical voice. Another stand out performance.

Led by the incomparable Vanessa Scammell, the orchestra must be heard to be believed. Every note is a triumph and they do nothing but justice to Guettel's score.

Finally, commendations to Kim Bishop for the beguiling costume design. Every piece was stunning and more divine than the next. A treat and simply beautiful to look at. Bravo!

Beg, borrow, or steal your ticket to Life Like Company's The Light in The Piazza. You won't regret it.

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From This Author Victoria Beal