Some thoughts on “The Light in the Piazza”

Before I dive into my review for Edge, I wanted to capture some of my reactions to Marriott’s production of this Adam Guettel (music and lyrics) and Craig Lucas (book) masterpiece.

Mary Ernster is everything you’d want her to be as Margaret Johnson. Funny, warm, touching, heartbreaking, beautifully sung. I couldn’t ask for a better performance.

Summer Smart (what a name!) scores big as Clara. She had a little trouble with “The Beauty Is,” but I’ve never heard the title song sung butter. A convincing little actress, but girl needs to eat a sandwich! Much too thin.

Max Quinlan blew the audience away with “Il Mondo Era Vuoto.” Superbly acted and sung.

Chicago favorite Paula Scrofano, whom I’ve never seen onstage before, shines in her small role as Signora Naccarelli. I would like see her take on Margaret — one of the best roles for a woman in decades.

Gene Weygandt, who played the Wizard for years in Chicago’s production of Wicked, brings class and a commanding presence to Signor Naccarelli. Real chemistry between Ernster and him (he and Ernster?).

And now, some griping:

The orchestra, while very good, was enclosed in a glass booth behind the audience. The sound is then mixed with the vocals and piped out, quite loudly at times, through tinny speakers. This is just how it is at Marriott. At intermission, the elderly theatregoers — their key subscriber base — were STILL complaining how hard it was to hear. Did they need subtitles? I mean, really. For a show like Piazza, the orchestra should be out in the open. The score needs to breathe, not be corked up in some room. In addition, a keyboard substituted the piano. I hate this. No matter what anyone says, it sounds cheap.

It’s an annoying flaw that keeps this production from being amazing.

Also: Cut the dancing in the opening. It’s lame, and sets things off on a low note.

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