The Light in the Piazza is arguably one of the most highly anticipated theatrical events of the decade for serious Broadway theatergoers. The Los Angeles Times has already declared its creator, Nonesuch artist Adam Guettel, "a composer for the new century," on the strength of his two Off-Broadway productions, the 1996 Obie-Award winning "folk musical" Floyd Collins and the 1998 song cycle, Myths and Hymns, TIME has described him as "a startlingly original songwriter." Few theatrical composers have been watched as closely as Guettel, and few musicals in the course of their development have generated so much substantial press or been praised so highly on the road as The Light in the Piazza. Both the New Yorker and The New York Times magazine devoted in-depth coverage to the evolution of Guettels sophisticated, deeply moving score. New Yorker critic John Lahr decided,"Guettels kind of talent cannot be denied. He shouldnt change for Broadway; Broadway, if it is to survive as a creative theatrical force, should change for him."
Like a shimmering pearl, The Light in the Piazza
emerged from a sea of revivals, rehashings, and movie adaptations to secure 11 2005 Tony nominations, including Best Musical. Based on an Elizabeth Spencer novella
(which was also made into a 1962 film), it follows a mother, Margaret (Victoria Clark), and her daughter, Clara (Kelli O'Hara), as they take a vacation to Italy. There, Clara and a young Italian (Matthew Morrison) fall in love, but Margaret is determined to keep them apart.
The Light in the Piazza doesn't fit the model of most Broadway scores, with a splashy opener here, a swing number there, then the big ballad. The score is more of a unified whole, sometimes jarring, sometimes following the patterns of speech, and sometimes unfolding in glorious sheens of sound. (Heck, some of it's even in Italian!) In that sense, it's similar to another unconventional American musical set in Italy, Stephen Sondheim's Passion, which is more chamber opera than musical, and composer-lyricist Adam Guettel (song of Mary Rodgers, grandson of Richard Rodgers) seems the most likely heir apparent to Sondheim in the current generation of musical theater creators. O'Hara's voice soars in the score's most beautiful moments ("Say It Somehow," the title song), but Clark enjoys two exquisitely lyrical moments with "Dividing Day" and "Let's Walk." She was one of the show's six Tony winners (for Leading Actress), along with Guettel's score and the orchestrations, scenice design, lighting, and costumes, while O'Hara (for Featured Actress), Morrison, Craig Lucas's book, and Bartlett Sher's direction were also nominated. --David Horiuchi