Category Archive for: ‘Richard Connema’

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Spreckels Theatre Company has just concluded a gorgeous production of Adam Guettel’s “The Light in the Piazza”. This marks my fourth time I have seen this moving musical starting with the original starring Victoria Clark and Kelli O’Hara. The Gene Abravaya production is just as good as the Broadway production.

Adam Guettel’s music is sublime and very melodic. You might not go out of the theatre humming the tunes but you will remember the mood of the inspiring score. It is probably one of the best romantic scores since Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” and is reminiscent of a Sondheim score in some scenes.  I would say it is less a musical and more a chamber opera. The plot is romantic but it does not go overboard into sentimentality.

“The Light in the Piazza” is about Margaret Johnson (Eileen Morris) and her 26 year old daughter Clara (Jennifer Mitchell) on an extended trip to Florence, Italy.  Margaret is revisiting old haunts that she had experienced with her husband when they were first wed.  Director Gene Abravaya has inserted two ballet dancers in white along with a non-dancer in white to represent her husband who weave in and out of the story to show Margaret’s initial visit when she had to choose between a handsome young Italian boy and her husband.

Of course Clara also has a chance meeting with  20 year old Fabrizio Naccarelli (Jacob Bronson) and it’s love at first sight. The overly protective mother initially objects to the affair because there is a secret about the daughter.  Clara had a bad accident at age 12 and even though her body continued to develop, she is mentally stuck at age 12. The problem arises as to whether or not Margaret should stop Clare’s impending marriage.  The mother knows that it could be Clara’s one chance for pure happiness.

Eileen Morris gives a wonderful performance as Margaret. She has an impressive voice especially in the song “Dividing Day” when she thinks of the emptiness of her marriage to a cigarette magnate still in States.  Her soliloquies are filled with emotional texture.

Jennifer Mitchell as Clara has a radiant soprano voice especially when singing the captivating “The Beauty Is”, “The Light in the Piazza” and “Tirade”.  She does not show her emotional and mental abilities until the end of the musical. Jacob Bronson gives a magnetic performance as Fabrizio with his vibrant voice.  The young couple’s duets are entrancing.

Steven Kent Barker is splendid as Fabrizio’s worldly father. He exudes charm with his full flavored voice while Barbara McFadden is excellent as Fabrizio’s mother who speaks only Italian breaks character and beautifully sings “Aiutami” as the start of the second act.  Newcomer Tariq Malik, a recent graduate from UC Irvine, gives a terrific performance as Fabrizio older brother Giuseppe. Amy Marie Webber as the angry, envious and voluptuous Franca gives a winning performance. Adrian Boyer as the priest and Dwayne Stincelli as Margaret’s husband Roy are very good in smaller roles. Hannah Barton and Casey Rusher as the ballet dancers are impressive. The rest of the cast in smaller roles are very striking.

Eddy Hansen and projections of Elizabeth Bazzano are outstanding on the big screen showing the architecture of   Florence, Italy. The cast looks fine in the smart chic of Pamela Enz costumes. Diego Garcia the musical director of the orchestra was pitch perfect.   Gene Abravaya‘s direction is spot on.  “The Light in the Piazza” closed on October 25.


Coming up next at Spreckels is the Broadway musical “Little Women” opening on November 27th and running through December 20th.  For schedule of Spreckels events go to and for tickets call 707-588-3400

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