Following its well-received world premiere at Seattles Intiman Theatre in June 2003, THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA alighted next in Chicago in early 2004 for another equally well-received engagement. The Adam Guettel -Craig Lucas musical, based on Elizabeth Spencers novella, tells the story of an American woman and her daughter on a transforming visit to Florence. Even while local critics and audiences were caught in its spell, however, the authors kept on working.
Rewrites, Guettel told the Chicago Tribune, are probably the element of making theater thats the tackiest. Writing is simple, compared to sifting through the rewrites. I always try to hold onto the feeling I had about a scene or a song, or a character, even before I write any music or lyrics. If the audience is going to get that feeling too, you have to make sure your original intentions are still there. If they are, youre probably in good shape.
The Tribunes Michael Phillips reported on revisions to PIAZZA: Theres more music to be heard in the show now...[and the authors] are perpetually assessing the emotional tone...Lucas doesnt want to lose sight of the comedy. Guettel doesnt want to lose sight of the yearning emotional expression.
The composer spoke with the Associated Press Michael Kuchwara about the time-consuming process. Its not so much the writing, Guettel asserts. Its getting the right collaborators and finding the right cast and developing the material in a way that a delicate show like this probably needs to be developed carefully, out-of-town. We have been very lucky to have those productions, this one included, to really look at it in front of a paying audience.
Directed at the Goodman by Bartlett Sher, with Ted Sperling once again leading the orchestra, PIAZZA featured a 12-member cast, most of whom were alumnae of the Seattle production. Its run extended due to popular demand, THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA brought a welcome ray of Tuscan sunshine to Chicagos bleak midwinter.
Delicate and lyrical, THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA beautifully captures the eternal allure of Italy in both its musical sensibility and visual design, said Hedy Weiss in the Chicago Sun-times. There is much to delight in here...Guettel has written several songs of breathtaking emotional depth and poetic beauty You leave the theater wishing that [they] were already recorded so you could listen to them again.
Among the many delightful surprises, wrote John Lahr for the New Yorker, is its overture. Has any other American musical in the past twenty years had enough memorable melody to warrant such a thing? Guettels tunes are richly textured and warmly atmospheric; like the Tuscan light of Spencers story, they create the sense that everything is clear and visible, that nothing is withheld.'
What a joy THE LIGHT IN ThE PIAZZA is!, exulted the Milwaukee Journals Damien Jaques.It is a gorgeous, affecting piece of theater that places its composer among the elite of those writing scores for the stage today...Its a mix of conventional musical theater and operetta, spoken and sung dialogue, big emotions in a chamber-size production. Jaques observed, PIAZZA makes one important demand on us. It asks, in this era of cynicism and irony, for us to believe in true and pure love at first sight.
The final word from Chicago, and the Tribunes Michael Phillips:
The PIAZZA team is trying to net an elusive bird: a love story, more about a mothers letting-go than a daughters newfound rapture, that speaks in a wry murmur more often than a full-throated cry...Its worth seeing and hearing if youre at all interested in new musicals that arent stupid, that dont rely on camp, that reach for the light, like Icarus a character in Guettels own MYTHS AND HYMNS if Icarus were a musical theater composer of formidable talent.
Lincoln Center Theater will present THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA on Broadway, starting performances at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in Spring 2005... Stay tuned for further details.