Upon entering the historic Ardis Krainik Theatre you are greeted by a lush recreation of a piazza - a market place or public square - in Italy. The set is comprised of buildings arranged in a semicircle anchored upstage by a curved staircase. A circular cloudscape is suspended above. Perhaps this design is a metaphoric expression of the cyclical relationships between protective parents and their adult children -- a salient theme in THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA.
Scenario Two Offers up a Treatise on Generational Course Correction
A vigilant mother takes her young-for-her-age daughter on a tour of Italy so that the two can retrace the steps Mom and Dad took decades ago, in the romantic prime of their relationship. A married - perhaps unhappily so - older brother coaches his wide-eyed younger brother in the art of seduction. Mom admonishes daughter against falling for the charms of Italian men, while she is beguiled by just such a person. This optimistic, romantic musical asks you to think on more than the romance; youth is put into heady conflict with experience.
World Class Spectacle
Golden hues, reminiscent of warm sunlight, saturate the environment. An electric scooter occasionally glides across the stage, while the adroit ensemble of Servers, Nuns, Sex Workers, tourists, etc. traipse and twirl about. They ride a rousing sonic bed, compliments of the Lyric Opera Orchestra, guided by the deft baton of Conductor Kimberly Grigsby.
“They are made of tomorrow and yesterday . . .”
Ardent fans and newcomers alike might agree that Renée Fleming brought forth all of the power and grace one might expect from a performer of her caliber. Alex Jennings was charm-fueled gravitas made manifest. This particular reviewer found that Solea Pfeiffer and Rob Houchen are the heart and soul of the piece. Houchen’s easy charisma was undercut by a kind vulnerability, while Pfeiffer’s earnest innocence gives way to fervid strength -- which is to say nothing of their bravura vocal performances.
For all the talent and high craft on display, this reviewer could not help but feel that some indulgences - a number of solos for one example - halted the pace, diluted the story and ultimately held this show back from reaching the heights of its potential. That said, you too might find infectious hopefulness and earnest charm on the piazza.
This show is recommended for fans of rollicking, romantic fare and - of course - fans of the superstar Renée Flemming. Those who prefer their theatre served with a bit of grit may wish to look elsewhere.
Thru December 29
Lyric Opera House
20 N. Wacker Drive
About the Author:
Spence Warren is a Filmmaker, a Film Worker, A Musician, A Puppet Maker and - apparently - an occasional reviewer. He hopes to offer people - particularly those who love story in all its forms - valuable insight and perspective.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.