Columbia Musical Theatre Society put on The Light in the Piazza this past Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. We sent someone who doesn’t know much about musical theatre, the Italian and Southern Sarah Thompson, to relate the show to a more general audience.
Students and members of the community filled Barnard’s cozy Glicker-Milstein Theatre to the brim on Saturday night—and rightfully so, for CMTS and its cast of 8 artfully performed the moving The Light in the Piazza, with music, lyrics, and orchestrations by Adam Guetell.
Shelley Farmer, BC ’14, played Margaret Johnson, a Southern woman accompanying her daughter, Clara—played by Rebekah Lowin, CC ’14—on a trip to Florence. Lowin captured Clara’s innocence and child-like nature perfectly, as her voice, if not the most powerful, had a pure and mellifluous quality. Farmer channeled Margaret’s controlling nature with her strong voice and dramatic facial expressions. She frequently roused laughter in the audience, just as it became questionable whether Margaret took herself as seriously as she projected to Clara.
While in the main square of Florence, Clara’s wind-swept hat is caught by the Italian man Fabrizio Naccarelli, played by the sexy Geoff Hahn, CC ’15 and part of the Columbia-Juilliard Exchange Program. Hahn’s classical training became apparent in “Il Mondo Era Vuoto,” when his deep, strong voice poured out his heart. As he repeated “Clara” longingly, I switched the name to “Sarah” in my head.
The rest of the musical details the complications their love causes—namely the tensions between these modern-day Montagues and Capulets, as well as already-existing strains between the Johnson married couple (with Ben Russell, CC ’13, as the rich Southern gentleman and Italian priest) and those of the two generations of married couples in the Naccarelli household.
The remainder of the cast playing the Naccarelli family proved relatively convincingly Italian in their mannerisms and accents. Franca Naccarelli (Kyle McCormick, CC ’14) looked and acted just like many fierce Italian women I’ve seen on my trips to Italy, and the hilarious Lorenzo Landini, CC ’13, playing the head of the household, provided the perfect counter to the idealistic Fabrizio. Devin Lloyd, CC ’15, and Sam Mickel, CC ’14, rounded off the cast, proving essential in both duping Fabrizio about the nature of American dancing and translating the Italian dialogue in a rather self-aware manner, respectively.
Despite my Bacchanal hangover, I couldn’t have enjoyed the show more. The staging and musical accompaniment seemed flawless to me, the cast displayed great unity, and the chemistry between Clara and Fabrizio stunned. The dark undertones—“Hysteria/Lullaby” and Clara’s questionable mental condition—contrasted with the levity and humor of love and new friends, all captured by this cast in an engaging performance. Bravo!