THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA
Music and Lyrics by Adam Guettel
Book by Craig Lucas
Brick Road Theatre
Director: Wendy Welch
Music Director: Pam Holcomb-McLain
Orchestra Conductor: Chris Widomski
Assistant Director: Jason Bias Stage Manager: Loe Heike
Lighting Design: Jason Lynch
Sound Design: Tyler Payne
Costume Design: Ryan Schaap
Choreographer: Molly Welch
Margaret Johnson: Noelle Chesney
Clara Johnson: Janelle Lutz
Fabrizio Naccarelli: Seth Womack
Signor Naccarelli: Dan Servetnick
Signora Naccarelli: Sara Comley Caldwell
Guiseppe Naccarelli: Billy Betsill
Franca Naccarelli: Laura Lites
Roy Johnson: Lon Barrera
Priest: Phil Alford
Tour Guide: Rebecca Bias
Ensemble: Phil Alford, Mindy Bell, Rebecca Bias, Elizabeth Drake, Jonathan Hardin, Chris Edwards, Rebecca Miller, Mary Ann Morrow
Reviewed Performance: 10/21/2016
Reviewed by Holly Reed, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Brick Road Theatre in Plano, Texas is quickly rising to the top as one of the best small theatre companies in the Dallas area. Created by Noelle Chesney in 2015, Brick Road Theatre is now presenting its fourth and most challenging musical endeavor yet, The Light in the Piazza by Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas. Performed by an abundantly talented 15-piece orchestra, Guettel’s score swelled and soared through the corridors of the moderately sized Courtyard Theater in downtown Plano. A difficult repertoire of music for sure, there was never a hiccup or pause as the combination of strings effortlessly executed the harmonic shifts and extended melodic structures of the Neoromantic classical music. The Light in the Piazza is a dramatic story of Margaret Johnson, a wealthy Southern woman who along with her daughter Clara enjoy a summer together in Italy in the 1950s. Clara falls in love with a young Italian man, and Margaret struggles between reason and truth as she considers not only Clara’s future but the hopes she holds deep within herself as well. It is a beautiful story of love, innocence, patience, regret and hope. Brick Road Theatre founder Noelle Chesney made her home stage debut as the stern and skeptical Margaret Johnson. Her strong alto voice and gritty personality portrayed this overbearing, overprotective role quite well. She was witty in breaking the fourth wall in sides to the audience and confident, sensitive and passionate in her solo songs such as Dividing Day, Lullaby, and The Beauty Is (Reprise). While upon first glance the story seems to be a love story between Clara and Fabrizio, as each scene passes, the maternal, fearful, and regretful Margaret Johnson claims the crux of the story. Noelle was up to the task of carrying such a heavy emotional load. She was authentic, believable, and truthful and helped the audience feel her struggle as Clara’s future and well-being weighed heavily on her heart and mind. The tender Clara Johnson was played by seasoned actress Janelle Lutz. She was funny, innocent, flighty and flirty throughout. Her beautiful soprano voice was captivating in The Beauty Is and The Light in the Piazza. I especially enjoyed her interpretation of Tirade during which she broke away from the lighthearted sweetness and idealism seen in her previous numbers and released a much needed anger and passion which showed the audience she was real, whole, and human in spite of her delayed mental condition. Until that moment, she was a passive player in the game. With her Tirade, she staked her claim on her own happiness, which was refreshing and inspiring. Seth Womack, playing the Italian lovestruck tie shop owner Fabrizio Naccarelli, was overwhelmingly the star of the show. His effortless, soaring tenor voice was breathtaking and mesmerizing with an uncanny likeness to the stalwart Josh Groban. His tall, lanky figure and innocent, boyish gestures endeared the audience to him from the opening scene. Most of Seth’s songs and dialogue were in Italian and he handled the language impeccably. His stumbling through learning English was believable and sweet and never once seemed forced or unauthentic. Seth was passionate and physical in his acting, connected, committed and consistent. All of his songs were fabulous, and I especially enjoyed his interpretation of Passaggiata with his precise handling of pitch, melody and vocal weight. The ensemble actors were wonderful and supportive both vocally and in their acting roles. The choral numbers were well balanced and their staging and choreography were well executed. The Naccarelli family was impressive in Octet, a very demanding vocal and physical song and scene, and their Italian throughout the show was flawless, believable and never a distraction or disappointment. The staging was simple and effective, utilizing basic Roman columns and fountains and their rearrangement to indicate varied scenes. I enjoyed the scene transitions being in silhouette, which to me implied day and night, the bustle of the Roman cities, as if the world was continuing to go on behind the main action. Colored gels were used often and helped to communicate and emphasize mood as well as time of day. Costuming was appropriate both for the American Southern women whose dresses, shoes, hats and purses were iconic to the time, and for the Italian citizens in their traditional garb. Brick Road Theatre’s production of The Light in the Piazza was impeccable, moving, and inspiring. The music is definitely the highlight of the show, but the story of the value of love to all people, regardless of their perceived capacity for it, is a very close second. I left with a sentimental heart and mind soaring from the evening’s symphony of romance.
The Light in the Piazza
Brick Road Theatre
Playing October 21–October 30, 2016 at the Courtyard Theater in Plano
Performances run October 21–30. Tickets range from $15 to $22. Evening performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Matinee performances are Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets may be purchased online at brickroadtheatre.org or by calling 972-941-5613.
Brick Road Theatre is currently a non-professional theater, with the intent of becoming a professional theater within the next five years. The cast of their productions consist of professional caliber actors working in the D-FW Metroplex.