The Light In The Piazza

This romantic musical drama is sure to capture your heart

THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA book by Craig Lucas, music and lyrics by Adam Guettel, directed by Robert McQueen (Acting Up Stage). At Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs (26 Berkeley). To February 21, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, Sunday 7 pm, matinee Saturday 2 pm. $30-$45, some discounts. 416-368-3110. See listing. Rating: NNNN

You won’t find a more perfect Valentine’s Day show than The Light In The Piazza, a love story packed with heart and seductive melodies.

Set largely in 50s Florence, it’s the tale of American mother Margaret (Patty Jamieson) and daughter Clara (Jacquelyn French), visiting the places where Margaret and her husband, Roy (Lee MacDougall), spent their pre-war honeymoon.

When Clara sees Fabrizio (Jeff Lillico) in a Florentine piazza, it’s love at first sight.

Margaret’s upset by the development, for though 26-year-old Clara is physically mature, a childhood accident has arrested her mental development. Explaining this to Fabrizio and his family proves challenging.

Craig Lucas’s script captures both the freshness of the young lovers and the difficulties facing Margaret. Adam Guettel’s English and Italian songs, while not always memorable, are warm without being cloying or sentimental.

The first act’s narrative could move along more briskly, but that’s a writing problem rather than Robert McQueen’s direction. The tighter second act is a treat.

French conveys both the girl and the woman in Clara, while Lillico finds the boyish, playful, sometimes wounded side of Fabrizio. The two seem to fall in love anew each time they meet.

Jamieson has the show’s hardest role, balancing the happiness Margaret wants for her daughter and the worry that weighs on her each time Clara steps away from her care. Her gradual acceptance of Clara’s independence, mixing warmth and sadness, rings absolutely true.

There’s also fine work by Juan Chioran as Fabrizio’s elegant father, Michael Torontow as Fabrizio’s womanizing brother, Giuseppe, and Tracy Michailidis as Giuseppe’s understandably jealous wife.

Phillip Silver’s simple set and lighting, evoking the warm tones of Italy, is nicely complemented by Alex Amini’s period costumes. Musical director Jonathan Monro draws beguiling sounds from his orchestra. [rssbreak]

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