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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA • R-S Theatrics

From 9 Circles and Adding Machine: The Musical, to The Cherry Sisters Revisited, Parade and In the Heights, R-S Theatrics has never shied away from the risk of locally debuting ambitious plays and musicals. Based on a novella by Elizabeth Spencer, Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza concerns Clara (Macia Noorman), a twenty-something girl from Winston-Salem, who falls in love with a boy while traveling in Italy. Her mother, Margaret (Kay Love), is torn between her instincts to protect Clara, whose mental development was stunted as the result of a childhood accident, and her dreams of happiness and fulfillment for her daughter.

Clara (Macia Noorman) and Fabrizio (Tiélere Cheatem).
Photo credit: Michael Young
Lucas and Guettel’s adaptation leads with its unblushingly romantic score. Drifting more towards opera, its melodies are intricate, with tricky counterpoint passages, spoken and sung Italian, and solos that feel more appropriately referred to as arias. When the ardor of emotion transcends language, songs break down into wordless vocalizations. The intimate Marcelle Theatre brings the lofty reach of the music down to human scale, with a vocally agile cast, careful direction, and a lovely chamber ensemble of strings, piano and harp. Simply presented and wonderfully executed, it was a risk worth taking for artistic director, Christina Rios.

Margaret and Clara are taking in the sights of Florence when they meet Fabrizio Naccarelli (Tiélere Cheatem) -- lovestruck, gushing, and grasping for words.
Margaret (Kay Love) and Roy (Robert Doyle).
Photo credit: Michael Young
He’d been admiring Clara from afar, and she’s taken with him as well, but Margaret thwarts Fabrizio’s best efforts -- more than once. She softens her opposition to an extended stay once she meets Fabrizio’s father, Signor Naccarelli (the always appealing Kent Coffel), who serves as a charming bridge between the two families. Margaret’s husband, Roy (Robert Doyle), has remained back home, and during their phone conversations he insists that the courtship end, but the Naccarellis have welcomed them warmly, and taking stock of her own marriage prompts a moving evolution in Margaret over the course of the play.

Signor Naccarelli (Kent Coffel), Giuseppe (Micheal Lowe)
and Fabrizio (Tiélere Cheatem).
Photo credit: Michael Young

A proper Southern lady with a good share of humor, Margaret has been used to providing a buffer between Clara and the pitfalls life brings, and an outstanding Love conveys the full weight of Margaret’s dilemma while effectively and beautifully handling the vocal demands. Noorman plays Clara's mental challenges subtly -- from wonder-filled and curious, to volatile and sometimes petulant, and she performs demanding numbers like the winsome “The Beauty Is,” an intense “Hysteria,” and the jealousy-driven “Tirade,” impressively. Cheatem cannot take his eyes off of Clara as Fabrizio, and goes from schoolboy giddiness to loving comforter smoothly, lending a rich vibrato that makes numbers like “Il Mondo Era Vuoto” and “Love to Me” soar.

Franca (Stephanie Merritt).
Photo credit: Michael Young
The young couple occupies much of the story, but this is a play about relationships on a few levels. Fabrizio and Clara’s euphoric flush of new love is flanked by the fiery turbulence between Fabrizio’s brother, a flirtatious Giuseppe (a solid Micheal Lowe), and his exasperated wife Franca (a fantastic Stephanie Merritt), the unspoken, long-held suspicions between Signor and Signora Naccarelli (a maternal Jodi Stockton), and Margaret and her increasingly distant husband, Roy. Kudos also to the Italian language coach, Myriam Colombo. The cast handles it well, breaking down the language barrier through clear, expressive performances.

Clara (Macia Noorman) and Margaret (Kay Love).
Photo credit: Michael Young
It’s only up for one more weekend, so snag a ticket asap. You don’t see stirring musicals like this every day.


THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA

Music/lyrics by Adam Guettel
Book by Craig Lucas
Directed by Christina Rios
Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive
through August 26 | tickets: $20 - $25
Performances Friday and Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 7pm

Fabrizio (Tiélere Cheatem) and Franca (Stephanie Merritt).
Photo credit: Michael Young
Cast
Margaret Johnson: Kay Love
Clara Johnson: Macia Noorman
Newspaper Seller: Ann Hier
Fabrizio Naccarelli: Tiélere Cheatem
Giuseppe Naccarelli: Micheal Lowe
Franca Naccarelli: Stephanie Merritt
Signor Naccarelli: Kent Coffel
Tour Guide: Louisa Wimmer
Priest: Chris Kernan
Waiter: Jason Meyers
Signora Naccarelli: Jodi Stockton
Roy Johnson: Robert Doyle
Flower Seller: Melissa Christine
Young Clara: Avery Smith
Clara U/s: Lindy Elliott
Fabrizio U/s: Anthony Randle

Franca (Stephanie Merritt) and Giuseppe (Micheal Lowe).
Photo credit: Michael Young
Ensemble
Melissa Christine
Robert Doyle
Lindy Elliot
Ann Hier
Chris Kernan
Jason Meyers
Anthony Randle
Louisa Wimmer

Creative
Musical Director: Sarah Nelson
Stage Manager: Brittanie Gunn
Asst. Stage Manager: Rhiannon Skye Creighton
Asst. Stage Manager: Abigail Rosen
Technical Director: J. Keller Ryan
Margaret (Kay Love).
Photo credit: Michael Young
Choreographer: Cecily A. King
Scenic Designer: J. Keller Ryan
Lighting Designer: Nathan Schroeder
Costume Designer: Ashley Bauman
Sound Designer: Mark Kelley
Properties Master: Heather Tucker
Dance Captain: Melissa Christine
Fight Captain: Rhiannon Skye Creighton
Italian Language Coach: Myriam Colombo
Dialect Coach: Mark Kelley
Production Intern: Abigail Rosen
Box Office Manager: Andy Zaruba
Graphic Designer: Michael Young
Artistic Director: Christina Rios
Assoc. Managing Director: Carmen Garcia
Assoc. Managing Director: Heather Tucker

Orchestra
Piano/Conductor: Sarah Nelson
Cello: Emily Lane
Harp: Terri Langerak
Violin: Kelly LaRussa
Bass: Jacob Stergos

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