Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Light in the Piazza 10th Anniversary Reunion Concert

Perhaps the single most salient fact about theater is that it is ephemeral, evanescent. Even if you get to see a production 10 times, it eventually closes, and it's gone. Poof. But in some incredibly wonderful cases, a show reappears, even if only for an evening, as with the magical 10th Anniversary Reunion Concert of A Light in the Piazza last night, with virtually the entire original cast.

Did the show and the performers live up to my golden memories of the eight times I saw it?

They were even better.

Bows at Light in the Piazza 10th Anniversary Reunion Concert
I should mention that having seen Piazza eight times doesn't put me high on the list of repeat viewers--it doesn't even put me high on the list with my three friends who were also there. Together, we saw the show at least 40 times. In other words, we are fans.

But so was the entire audience, at least upstairs. Downstairs, in the fancy seats, people had spent thousands of dollars to benefit Lincoln Center Theater. I don't know how many loved Piazza in particular and how many were more general philanthropists. But upstairs, we were all happily rabid fans, thrilled to see this miracle occurrence at "only" $150. (Although I rarely spend more than $50 to see a show these days, Piazza would have been cheap at twice what we paid.)

So before the show even started, there was a lovely electric buzz in the house.
And then the overture began, and, with it, musical theater heaven.

Here are some of the highlights, for me:
  • Everything
Okay, a bit more detail:
  • The wonderful Ted Sterling was back at the podium, and the orchestra was thrilling. 
  • The show was semi-staged, and excellently. Although I have had mixed feelings about Bartlett Sher's work since, his staging of the original Piazza was superb, and his semi-staging last night was as well. He used just enough movement to expand the evening from concert to show, and even without scenery, he gave us a sense of the 1950s Italy of Adam Guettel (music and lyrics) and Craig Lucas (book)--and of Elizabeth Spencer (original novel).
  • Everyone's voice was in wonderful shape, and I would have to say that Kelli O'Hara and Matthew Morrison sounded even better than they did years ago. (Victoria Clark couldn't have gotten any better than she was--there is no better--but she was every bit as wonderful.)
  • The song that got the most applause was "The Light in the Piazza." The audience would not stop applauding and cheering. O'Hara finally had to take a little bow, looking for all the world like an abashed baseball player who just got his 3,000th hit but wants the game to go on. She was crying, and she was not the only one.
  • Every time I saw the original Piazza, Clark did "Dividing Day" differently. She was angry, sad, thoughtful, confused, annoyed. Last night, she did an amazingly internal, quiet version, as though she were puzzling out her thoughts for the very first time. She didn't get applause like O'Hara did--it's not that sort of a song--but the performance was exquisite. 
  • Michael Berresse danced a little. It wasn't enough! But it never was...
  • The show itself is a masterwork, a gorgeous blend of reality and fantasy, love and sadness, sexiness and humor. It would definitely make my top ten of best musicals, and that's saying something. 
  • My favorite of all the music is the Octet ("The shock of winter..."). I wish someone would make a standalone version--a long standalone version--that could be sung in concerts and benefits forever.
  • The kiss between Senior Naccarelli (Mark Harelik, charming as ever) and Margaret Johnson had enough emotion for its own show--tender, sexy, full of meaning.
  • The audience was excellent. People not only waited until after the very last note of each song to applaud--they sometimes waited even longer. There's nothing like a moment of silence after a song, where the performer, the audience, and even the song can just . . . breathe. 
I've got to go make a living, so I'll just sum up with this: Light in the Piazza reappeared last night, like Brigadoon out of the mist, in all its ephemeral, evanescent glory, and when it was over, the entire audience thought, with a teary sigh, "Play it again . . . please."

Wendy Caster
(3rd row balcony and grateful as could be to be there)

1 comment:

msdworks said...

Jealous to not have been there, but oh oh oh so glad you all were.