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Theatre Raleigh’s The Light in the Piazza Is a Unique Experience That Should Not Be Missed

Hilary Maiberger and Conor Ryan star as Clara Johnson and Fabrizio (photo by Curtis Scott Brown)

Hilary Maiberger and Conor Ryan star as Clara Johnson and Fabrizio (photo by Curtis Scott Brown)

As part of its sizzling 2016 Hot Summer Nights series, Theatre Raleigh is bringing us an utterly exquisite evening, performing Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel’s 2005 Broadway musical, The Light in the Piazza, in a portion of a statuary gallery of the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh. The museum setting is ideal for the various locales of this elegant story of romance and purity among some of the most complicated of human personal problems.

Clara Johnson (played by Hilary Maiberger) is a lovely young woman with a mild brain injury. Her overly protective mother (Judy McLane) has swept her out of their home in Winston-Salem for a tour of Italy, hoping to keep local suitors from complicating her life.

In this collaboration with the NCMA and scenic and lighting design manager Thomas Mauney, Benson, NC-born New York City-based guest director Eric Woodall melds the performing and visual arts into an explosion of art and beauty, supported and embellished by North Carolina Arts in Action music director Julie Bradley and a six-piece orchestra. The acoustics are perfect, with no amplification necessary. It seems probable that choice of time of day for the production was considered to capture the waning of the natural light that flowed through the curtained windows, and was replaced by manmade lights as the evening progressed.

Costume designer LeGrande Smith portrays the purity of the love with white garb, liberally painting the clothing with Mauney’s alabaster bedding and furniture.

The gallery portion houses Herakles, a Second Century Roman piece, around which the audience is placed; and the orchestra is located in the gallery adorned by large 16th Century religious paintings by Italian and Flemish artists.

The performance is spectacular. The intimacy of being within touching distance of these magnificent singer/actors is a personal experience. Hilary Maiberger creates for Clara Johnson an innocence of such fragile proportions that she is almost heartbreaking, a fragility that is even present in her sophisticated, unparalleled singing voice.

Fabrizio, the handsome wrench in Mrs. Johnson’s plans for Clara, is performed by Conor Ryan, with a brilliant innocence required by the part. He sings and acts his way into our hearts with his boyish charm, and his persistence in his love for Clara is strong and made real.

Judy McLane stars as Clara Johnson's overprotective mother, Margaret (photo by Curtis Scott Brown)

Judy McLane stars as Clara Johnson’s overprotective mother, Margaret (photo by Curtis Scott Brown)

Judy McLane, who portrays Clara’s mother, Margaret Johnson, could have done a better job with her North Carolina accent, but otherwise created an appropriate division of caring mother and overbearing mother, and tied that with despair for her falling apart marriage. Her singing is powerful, communicating her emotions and handling the operatic shifts of tonalities with expertise.

Fabrizzio’s father, Signor Naccarelli, is played by Ken Griggs. His Italian accent is authentic sounding, his charisma strong, his singing voice well suited to McLane’s. Their duet “Let’s Walk” is delightful.

Newlin Parker does a great job of being Giuseppe, Fabrizzio’s philandering brother, showing a flair for the comedy that the part requires, and an accomplished singing voice. Giuseppe’s wife, Franca, is brought to life by Maigan Kennedy. Franca unloads her dissatisfaction with her marriage in “The Joy You Feel,” sung to Clara, making us feel her hurt and her love for Giuseppe.

Lisette Glodowski plays the tour guide, but mostly impresses us with her graceful incidental dancing, which opens the show. Dan Callaway as Margaret’s husband Roy, Austenne Grey as Signora Naccarelli, and Derek Robinson as the priest also do excellent work in this ensemble.

Theatre-Raleigh’s rendition of The Light in the Piazza is an unique artistic experience that should not be missed.

Conor Ryan and Hilary Maiberger star as Clara Johnson and Fabrizio in Theatre Raleigh's production of <em>The Light in the Piazza</em>, performed at the N.C. Museum of Art (photo by Curtis Scott Brown)

Conor Ryan and Hilary Maiberger star as Clara Johnson and Fabrizio in Theatre Raleigh‘s production of The Light in the Piazza, performed at the N.C. Museum of Art (photo by Curtis Scott Brown)

SECOND OPINION: July 7th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Andrea McKerlie Luke: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=8058; July 7th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article88204957.html; and July 7th Raleigh, NC WRAL.com review by Jessica Patrick: http://www.wral.com/the-light-in-the-piazza-a-love-story-an-unlikely-stage/15835605/.

Theatre Raleigh presents THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA at 8 p.m. July 8-14 in the West Building at the N.C. Museum of Art, 2110 Blue Ridge Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607. TICKETS: $32.50 ($27.50 NCMA members and $30.50 seniors), except $20 standing room.

BOX OFFICE: 919-832-9997, meagan@theatreraleigh.com, or https://theatreraleigh.secure.force.com/ticket.

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-832-9997 or meagan@theatreraleigh.com.

SHOW: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/ and http://ncartmuseum.org/calendar/event/2016/07/07/the_light_in_the_piazza3/2000.

PRESENTER: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Theatre-Raleigh/349124511834045, and https://twitter.com/TheatreRaleigh.

VENUE: http://www.ncartmuseum.org/, https://www.facebook.com/ncartmuseum/, https://twitter.com/ncartmuseum, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Carolina_Museum_of_Art.

DIRECTIONS/MAPS: http://ncartmuseum.org/visit/plan_your_visit/.

OTHER LINKS:

The Light in the Piazza (1960 novel): http://www.elizabethspencerwriter.com/works/thelightinthepiazza.htm (author’s web page) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Light_in_the_Piazza_%28novel%29 (Wikipedia).

The Novel: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

Elizabeth Spencer (novelist): http://www.elizabethspencerwriter.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/390707 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Spencer_(writer) (Wikipedia).

The Light in the Piazza (1962 film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/680/Light-in-the-Piazza/ (Turner Classic Movies page), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056183/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_in_the_Piazza_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).

The Light in the Piazza (2003 Seattle and 2005 Broadway musical): http://www.lct.org/shows/the-light-in-the-piazza/ (official website), http://www.rnh.com/show/62/The-Light-in-the-Piazza (R & H Theatricals), https://www.ibdb.com/Show/View/390705 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Light_in_the_Piazza_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).

Adam Guettel (music and lyrics): https://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/80817 (Internet Broadway Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Guettel (Wikipedia).

Craig Lucas (book): https://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/4924 (Internet Broadway Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craig_Lucas (Wikipedia).

Eric Woodall (Benson, NC-born New York City director): http://www.ericwoodall.com/ (official website), http://www.tararubincasting.com/our-team.html (Tara Rubin Casting bio), https://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/90124 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0940106/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://www.facebook.com/eric.woodall.98 (Facebook page).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews