Wilbraham United Players, Wilbraham, MA
through May 18, 2014
by Walt Haggerty
With “The Light in the Piazza” the Wilbraham United Players have created an unforgettable evening in the theatre. One of the most beautiful of recent musicals, as well as one of the most challenging to perform, the United Players are giving “Piazza” a thrilling, luminous realization by an extraordinary cast.
A young girl has suffered a brain injury through an accident at an early age that has impeded her development, while physically she has matured as a beautiful young woman. Now in her twenties, Clara, played with amazing range by Carolyn Averill, is on a European vacation with her mother, Margaret, performed as unforgettably tender and caring by Teri LaFleur. A chance meeting with a handsome young Italian, Fabrizio, passionately delivered by Franklyn (Jay) Lee, sets the romantic story off on its difficult path. The exceptional performances of these three are most demanding and contribute immeasurably to the success of this production.
With book by Craig Lucas, and an incredible musical score and lyrics by Adam Guettel, (grandson of Richard Rodgers), the story flows through a series of gorgeous musical interludes, bordering at times on the operatic. The enormously talented cast is blessed with outstanding voices that are always up to the vocal demands of the score.
Fabrizio’s parents are flawlessly played by Kevin Kary and Lisa Woods, with warmth, plus meticulous Italian accents. Fabrizio’s brother and sister-in-law, Joe Van Allen and Shelly Capen, provide humor tinged by flashes of friction. Clara’s father, in his brief scenes, is brusquely acted by David Chivers. A large ensemble contributes effectively as tourists, priests, nuns, and other locals.
The setting, by Greg Trochlil, conveys the atmosphere of Florence without attempting a literal treatment. The superb musical accompaniment by Larry Picard and a six-piece ensemble is exemplary, particularly in view of the complexities of the score.
Top honors go to Director Deborah Trimble, who has brought this fragile, beautiful work of art to life. It is a not-to-be-missed production for every theatre lover.