It was lovely to be greeted by the colorful stage depicting the warmth of Florence, Italy in the summer when my guest and I took our seats, walking in from winter in Chicago, icy cold. We were here, at the Lyric Opera House to see The Light in the Piazza, presented by John Berry and Anthony Lilley for Scenario Two Ltd & Karl Sydow starring Renée Fleming. This show has a short run that will close on December 29th. Don’t put off getting tickets – the show is wonderful!
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. It features along with Ms. Fleming, Alex Jennings (Netflix’s The Crown) and rising star Solea Pfeiffer (Almost Famous).
Having missed the various incarnations of The Light in the Piazza before now, I was especially pleased to see this particular production. The set, the costumes, the interactions so clearly defined the setting as Florence, Italy in the 1950’s, 1953 to be more exact. “The Light in the Piazza” is by Elizabeth Spencer, an American author from Mississippi who was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1953 for her creative work, having completed two novels and working as a teacher and journalist. She used her monetary award to reside in Italy for an extended time and wrote short stories about Florence, Rome and Venice. The novella that took place in Florence appeared in the New Yorker magazine in 1960, and two years later it was released as a movie with Olivia de Haviland and George Hamilton.
The musical version became a Broadway sensation in 2004. What took it so long to get there? Richard Rogers tried to get the rights in 1960, but could not. Then in 1998 Rodger’s grandson, composer Adam Guettel, was granted the opportunity to create a musical. Then it took three years to find writer Craig Lucas to work on the book for the musical.
The performance of The Light in the Piazza at the Lyric Opera House is a wonderful addition to an exciting and varied season, although it is not a Lyric production. Following performances in Los Angeles and London that received rave reviews, the new UK company, Scenario Two, brings this work for Chicago audiences to enjoy before the tour heads to Sydney, Australia.
This is a luscious production. Bright and energetic, with exquisite voices, costumes and scenic design. The story of Margaret Johnson (Renée Fleming), her daughter Clara (Solea Pfeiffer) and their trip to Italy where they meet Fabrizio (Rob Houchen) and his family, including his father, Signor Naccarelli (Alex Jennings). As Margaret Johnson and her daughter, Clara, take in the city’s wonders, a fateful gust of wind whisks Clara’s hat into the hands of local dreamer Fabrizio Naccarelli This romantic story that is fairytale-like, also presents difficult situations in which skilled acting is demanded and delivered. What is the course that Margaret, alone with her daughter in a different culture, and a different language, knowing Clara’s intellectual challenges, should follow regarding Clara’s suddenly adult and strong romantic feelings? How do Margaret and Clara relate to Fabrizio’s family, each with a challenging story? What will Margaret do about her husband?
Come and find out as you listen to gorgeous music sung exquisitely and played by the Lyric Opera Orchestra under the direction of Christine Janicki. Renée Fleming is as lovely to look at sweeping across the stage as she is to listen to. Solea Pfeiffer was simply wonderful, an upcoming star, beautiful, and convincing. Rob Houchen was captivating, his voice was lovely and his gestures were just charming as the love-struck Italian. Get to the Lyric before it gets away.
About Scenario Two
Scenario Two is a new UK company founded by John Berry CBE and Anthony Lilley OBE, which specializes in commercial theatrical production in London and internationally. It brings together the very best talent from the world of opera and musical theatre with top performers and creators from other industries such as film, television and theatre. The company is creating exciting new productions of classic musicals and developing new commissions and thereby aims to attract both existing theatre-goers and new audiences to the West End and major theatres around the world. For more information visit scenario two.
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.. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit light in the piazza the musical
All Photos: Liz Lauren