REVIEW: Malvern Theatre’s THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA

Mi è piaciuto molto!

By Bradley Storer

The overture of Tony Award-winning musical The Light in the Piazza starts and instantly we are swept away into the wondrous world conjured up by Adam Guettel’s magnificent score (aided massively by David Dare’s fantastic set). As the sun rises on Florence, an American woman and her daughter wander onstage, eyes filled with wonder at the beauty that surrounds them as the inhabitants begin their early morning rituals, sparking one of the most beautiful openings in musical theatre.

Light in the Piazza

The smaller dimensions of Malvern Theatre suit this piece perfectly, allowing the audience to approach the performance on intimate terms that draw us deep into this exploration of the human heart. Under the musical direction of Shirley White, Guettel’s score is performed immaculately and given full justice, and in particular the ensemble numbers (especially in the second act) are outstanding.

As a whole the cast don’t seem to have the operatic vocal size that the music calls for, but their acting under the direction of Alan Burrows is of such a high quality that this actually doesn’t detract from the show as a whole. Gabrielle O’Brien turns in a delicate and heart-breaking performance as Margaret Johnson, a mother on vacation in Florence with her daughter, and her ‘The Beauty Is’ perfectly fuses together speech and singing into a seamless dramatic whole. Alexandra Clover as Margaret’s daughter Clara tackles this incredibly difficult role with a portrayal that deftly balances the childishness and pure innocence of the character, and her struggle to reconcile the desires of her heart and the limitations of her mind.  Daniel Mottau gives the best performance, both vocally and dramatically, as Clara’s Italian suitor Fabrizio, finding innocence that perfectly matches that of Clara along with an aching passion and youthful exuberance in a dark-hued tenor.

The members of Fabrizio’s family, his father (David McClean), sleazy brother Giuseppe (Ian Frost), and his sad-eyed sister in law Franca (Leonie Thomson) are all played wonderfully, with special mention to Sherryn Kew as Fabrizio’s mother who manages to communicate all of the character’s open-heartedness without ever speaking in English!

The quality of production and performance in this show are astonishing, and the intellectual and emotional depth summoned would be hard to beat, even by a professional production! A stunning and beautiful performance of one the great new works in musical theatre.

Venue: Malvern Theatre, 29A Burke Rd, Malvern East VIC

Dates: 1 – 16th November

Time: 8:15pm Tue – Sat, Matinees Sat 2nd Nov/Sunday 10th Nov 2pm, Gala Night Sat 9th Nov 8pm.

Price: $20/Groups (10+) $18/Gala Night $5 extra

Tickets: 1300 131 552 or at the door

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