The Light in the Piazza at the Southbank Centre
Hit Broadway musical The Light in the Piazza makes its London debut at the Royal Festival Hall for a 20-show run with a cohort of accomplished performers bringing the pages of Elizabeth Spencer’s 1960s novella to life under the guidance of multiple Olivier award-winning director Daniel Evans.
Set in 1953 in the beautiful, historic Italian city of Florence, the play follows Margaret Johnson (Renée Flemming) and her daughter Clara (Dove Cameron), who are there on vacation. Margaret is reminiscing about her past honeymoon in the city and so distracted with her own dreamy musings that it goes unnoticed when her daughter’s hat is playfully stolen by an admiring bystander, Fabrizio Naccarelli (Rob Houchen). This flirtatious beginning leads on to romantic liaisons between the two of them and an eventual fairytale wedding that doesn’t go quite as smoothly as it should.
Cameron in her role as Clara is demure, sweet and naive. A childhood accident at a birthday party has delayed her mental development and made her mother overtly protective. Sensitively portrayed by Cameron, there are moments she attempts to brings the character’s “disability” to light, giggling and grabbing the naked male statue in a gallery and sulking like a petulant child when she doesn’t get her way. Her candy-coated vocals backed up by Opera North’s 40-piece symphony orchestra contrast beautifully against the stronger operatic tones from Flemming and the grittier vocals from her fiesty future sister-in-law Franca (Celinde Schoenmaker).
Flemming is tremendous as Clara’s mother. She’s comical, witty and authentic with her emotions. A mild dalliance with Fabrizio’s silver-fox father Signor Naccarelli (Alex Jennings) makes her question her own marriage to Clara’s father, and there’s a subtle but much-needed shift in her perspective as she starts to let go of her daughter to love and focus on herself.
Adam Guettel’s extravagant score keeps the story moving forward but regrettably, there’s not a single song that sticks once the curtains have come down. Unfortunately, too, the props and scenic endeavours seem lost or misplaced in the theatre’s contemporary setting, but the efforts, emotions and wit of this wonderful hand-picked cast make The Light in the Piazza a warm-hearted storia d’amore.
Photo: Dewynters London
The Light in the Piazza is at the Southbank Centre from 14th June until 5th July 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.