BWW Review: The Beauty Is LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA from Showtunes
Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel's soaring romantic and tragic musical "Light in the Piazza" is not often tackled ... thank the theater Gods. I'm not saying it's bad by any stretch of the imagination, it's just that I'd hate to see every small company, without the resources to handle it well, take it on. Fortunately, they've built in a few traps that may dissuade. First off, it's not your typical, rollicking musical with songs you'll be singing after. Second, there's all that Italian that your cast needs to learn and deliver authentically. And finally, it's some tough music. It needs to be done by insanely talented professionals who can handle these beautiful melodies that fly up into the rafters (often in Italian) as well as the heartfelt story. Enter Showtunes Theatre as they begin their 20thseason, who routinely gather together the cream of the crop of Seattle artists for just a few weekends, books in hand, and you'll find yourself gifted with the mind-blowingly gorgeous evening that is their current production of "Light in the Piazza".
Now, you may not be familiar with the show which is and isn't surprising. You should know it since it was the darling of Broadway some years back and it got its start right here in Seattle. But you may not as ... well, as I said it's just not done a lot. So, let's go through it. Margaret and her daughter Clara (Billie Wildrick and Carly Marie) are from an affluent southern family in the 1950's and are on a sightseeing trip through Italy. Margaret wants to show her daughter all the beautiful things she and her husband Roy (Terence Kelley) saw when they visited before the war. It's just your typical sightseeing when a gust of wind blows off Clara's hat and changes their lives forever as it's returned by the handsome Fabrizio (Michael Krenning), and he and Clara fall in love at first sight. But Margaret feels she must put a stop to this romance due to a secret regarding the lovely Clara. But can she stop true love?
Showtunes along with Music Director Nathan Young have done the best thing they could do for this show, bring in the original Broadway orchestrations and a killer orchestra to back them up. Without them, the show would be pretty but with them it was sublime. And Director Kelly Kitchens manages to capture the joy and the tragedy of the show beautifully and not giving away the secret too soon. And if all that weren't enough, they only rehearse for a few scant weeks yet handled all that Italian flawlessly.
But then what can you expect from an ensemble like this. First off there's the amazing Billie Wildrick whom we all know can sing but I'm used to her belting it. But she handles these lilting melodies like no one. Well, no one except Carly Marie who manages to nail every note but also embody this sweet girl and fully tell the story with her very nuanced performance. And Michael Krenning as the dashing Fabrizio blew me away. His voice was so rich and clear on every line and even when singing in Italian, we could tell each emotion even without the supertitles.
But don't think that's it, as the supporting players nailed every moment too. Allen Fitzpatrick and Ellen McLain are fabulous as Fabrizio's doting Mother and Father and each grab onto their moments and run with them. Especially McLain who gets one of the most surprising and funny moments of the show and killed with it. Plus, there's Nathan Brockett and Danielle Barnum as Fabrizio's constantly squabbling brother and sister-in-law. Not only super fun to watch as Brockett oozes his way around the stage with his cheating ways while Barnum smacks him down on every turn, but also due to those killer vocals especially Barnum's solos and all of them during the "Octet".
I remember enjoying the show when I saw it before but now it's transcended into a masterpiece. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Showtunes Theatre's production of "Light in the Piazza" a "made me believe in the power of love again" WOW. You do NOT want to miss this one and you only have one more weekend.
"Light in the Piazza" from Showtunes Theatre performs at the Cornish Playhouse through September 22nd. For tickets or information visit them online at www.showtunestheatre.org.