Recent Posts

Monday, June 26, 2006


In April, I posted my concern in anticipation of the Live From Lincoln Center presentation of The Light in the Piazza. Viewing the special became even more important to me because I had missed the show during my recent trip to New York. When I was reminded that the show was airing 2 weeks ago, I quickly set my TiVo in anticipation. I wondered how this production would turn out and I hoped for the best.

Though I have never been a big fan of musicals taped for television, The Light in the Piazza proved to be a production worth the wait. While I have never seen this show live (yet), I was concerned about the integrity of the show's transition from live performance to small screen. I have been in love with the musical landscape Adam Guettel has painted with such emotion in this story from the first time I heard it. Though seeing the production live would (of course) have been preferable, the production team with Live From Lincoln Center did a pretty decent job capturing the intimate feel of the production.

I won't go on and on as to how I discovered the show and why I think its so great, besides I've done that ad nauseum and if you really want to know, you can read all of my posts on Piazza here. Onto the production...

Sometimes it can be difficult to appreciate an actor's performance in the theatre particularly if you are not seeing it, well, live! Based on one experience or (in cases like this one) a made-for-TV-production of a musical cannot fully portray the scope and depth of an actor's abilities and talents. Missing also in viewing a made-for-TV-production of a musical is the passion and energy that an audience member shares with the performers. Great Performances' Kiss Me Kate and Crazy For You were both perfect examples of great shows that translated flat performances from stage to screen. Luckily, Live From Lincoln Center's presentation of The Light in the Piazza was not one of those instances.

As Margaret Johnson, Victoria Clark is a very strong actress with great instinct for comedy as well as drama. Sitting in the confort of my own home, I enjoyed the performance and instantly understood why Clark won the Tony Award last year for this role. Obvious was the the controlling nature Clark portrayed as Margaret Johnson as well as the love and regret her character had for the mistakes she made that affected her daughter. Clark was as funny as she was sensitive and heartbreakingly introspective but more obvious was her heart as a performer and a mother. It will be hard to see anyone else play Margaret Johnson as Clark has...easily one of the most dynamic and stand-out performances I have seen (on TV or otherwise) in quite a long time.

Making her Broadway debut just days after graduating from college, Katie Clarke scored with the role of Clara Johnson succeeding Tony nominee, Kelli O'Hara. Though Clarke has a strong voice and plays up the innocence of the mentally challenged Clara Johnson, she doesn't yet seem to have the same acting maturity as O'Hara but is still equally good in her own right (from what I could hear/compare from the show's Original Cast Recording). Notable was Clarke's performance of the song, The Light in the Piazza which was on-the-mark and done with great emotion that seems to accurately reflect in the meaning of the song.

Original Broadway cast members, Sarah Uriarte Berry, Michael Berresse, Patti Cohenour and Beau Gravitte have remained with the show and appear in this production as well, but it was the addition of both Chris Sarandon and Aaron Lazar to the cast that were pleasantly surprising.

When I think of Chris Sarandon, it is as Prince Humperdink in The Princess Bride. Quite frankly, I had no idea he could sing. As Signor Naccarelli, Sarandon successfully plays the perfect, somewhat-overly bearing yet concerned father to Aaron Lazar's Fabrizio Naccarelli. Every scene Sarandon was in, he seemed to nail with confidence and control and only when he sang was his performance even stronger and more convincing.

Its no secret that I was pleasantly surprised (and loved) original cast member, Matthew Morrison's gorgeous tenor as Fabrizio Naccarelli. It was because of his voice I think that contributed to my notice of the show and from the beginning, really drove my motivation to see Piazza. Could there be anyone as great as Morrison? I must say, "yes," and admit that it is an actor named Aaron Lazar. While Morrison doesn't really look like a typical dark passionate Florentine (looking pretty darned all-American with curly dirty blonde hair and a mischevious grin), it is Lazar who seems to fit the role both vocally and physically. He has a pleasant, soothing voice and plays the passionate young Italian man quite convincingly.

While the show wouldn't be what it is without it's actors, The Light in the Piazza could not be as beautiful as it is if it wasn't for the gorgeous score by Guettel. I don' t know if I can think of another modern score as beautiful as that of the romantic intricate lush work that is both demanding and imposing on the emotions of the listener as it is soft, heartfelt and exciting. The score exudes love on every level and in every form whether it be between parent and child or man and woman. Watching this production allowed me to discover that The Light in the Piazza examines love in every stage from an established couple to one trying to find a balance in their life to the exciting, newness of a fresh love just beginning to blossom. Translating live performance to TV may not "work" everytime, but after watching this production, I realized that it is as valuable to preserve and introduce new works to new audiences as it is to cultivate the amazing emerging talent whose works are starting to flourish. Airing a musical like The Light in the Piazza on PBS showcases the work of fresh talent like Guettel and while it is good exposure for the show (which will soon be touring in a city near you), it is an even better opportunity to remind people out there that there are shows that aren't just about simple mindless entertainment but shows that can once again be complex, intelligent and beautiful. Guettel's work brings a new voice to the American Musical Theatre and he along with Jason Robert Brown will probably contribute a new multitude of work that will change the scope of the artform.


Related Posts with Thumbnails