The Light in the Piazza
July 3 to 13
10322 83 Ave., Edmonton
Tickets: $18 to $20 with applicable fees. Call 780-420-1757 or at tixonthesquare.ca
Love holds its grip on people like no other emotion. It sweeps us off our feet and has a way of making us believe anything is possible.
Walterdale Theatre’s new production transports its audience to Florence, Italy, a country filled with classic romantic encounters.
The Light in the Piazza scooped half a dozen Tony Awards for its Broadway musical production in 2005 and continues as a favourite of North American community theatre productions.
Inspired by Elizabeth Spencer’s own story of her travels, published in 1960, the musical has a similar fairy-tale quality similar to the famous film, Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.
It’s the summer of 1953. American socialite Margaret Johnston (Leslie Caffaro) and her coming-of-age daughter, Clara (Heeyun Park), are visiting Florence, a city of great architectural wonders, art and food.
While sightseeing along the cobblestone streets, a miraculous gust of wind whisks Clara’s hat into the hands of a young man, Fabrizio Naccarelli (Brendan Smith). The handsome young man returns the hat and the brief encounter sparks an immediate and intense romance between the duo.
But Clara is extremely protective of her daughter and tries to keep the couple apart. What starts as a love story turns darker as family secrets surface and cause potential conflicts.
“I’ve known for a few years I wanted to direct it. It’s a beautiful love story and, unlike most musicals, it has a smaller cast which is really well suited to Walterdale’s intimate playing space,” said director Kristen Finlay.
One of the Johnson family secrets is that Clara’s radiant innocence stems from a brain injury she suffered as a child.
“It’s about the potential of a person and not focusing on their limitations. Only by going to Italy can Clara find her potential,” Finlay said.
“Today you look at people with disabilities and it’s not about holding them back. Margaret has her own struggles and what she has to do is allow Clara to make a change.”
The musical adaptation, composed by Adam Guettel, a protégé of Stephen Sondheim, dramatizes the story using classical music and opera rather than the more traditional pop associated with musical theatre.
During auditions, Finlay and musical director Ron Long selected a cast with a robust vocal presence.
“The score is pivotal. One of the coolest songs is Il Mondo Era Vuoto (The World is Empty) sung by Fabrizio. It’s very emotional. He loves her but is worried she will never love him.”
And Heeeyun’s song, Light in the Piazza, is a heartbreaker. It’s how Clara sees the world. It’s not until this journey that she realizes she’s being held back from being an adult.”
Despite the romantic angst, Finlay sees lightness and illumination throughout.
“It feels summery to me. I walk in the theatre and the light is so beautiful. We have phenomenal performers and the music is so stunning. There’s humour, there are heart-breaking moments, but with a lot of hope.”
The Light in the Piazza runs from July 3 to 13.