30 November, 2005

The Return of the Golden Age

    The day before Pippin opened at Livestock, the set still wasn't finished so I headed to the studio directly after work and helped our set designer, David Bell, with painting the stage. When I walked in, I was greeted by the beautiful strains of The Light in the Piazza, a cast album I'd be dying to hear ever since reading excellent reviews from people whose opinions I trusted. I decided that I really needed to purchase the album -- and see the show, but that's highly unlikely unless it goes on tour.
     So I bought the album on amazon.com. It came in while I was away for Thanksgiving.
     The Light in the Piazza is a musical about the vitality of love and Adam Guettel, the show's composer and lyricist, does an excellent job of capturing that. The first strains of beautiful harp and strings in the overture are reminiscent of the timeless musicals of the Golden Age and leave the hair on your arms standing on end. Guettel's orchestrations are nothing less than masterful -- in musicality, emotion, and, thus, beauty. It's sometimes flowing, sometimes soaring, sometimes delicate, and sometimes Sondheim-esque. And the lyrics are just as beautiful. The music and lyrics seem the perfect blend between Rogers & Hammerstein and Sondheim. Rogers & Hammerstein can sometimes seem too melodic, too beautiful, too simple while Sondheim seems very intellectual with odd melodies and interesting rhymes. Guettel takes the best of both worlds and seamlessly stitches them together. Even Fabrizio's broken English is somehow beautiful.
     If you can believe it, the voices match and sometimes surpass the beauty of the music and lyrics. Victoria Clark (who won a Tony Award for her performance) is nothing short of perfect. Her southern accent takes a bit of getting used to for those of us accustomed to the usually perfect diction of musical theatre, but once you get over that, Clark takes you on an unforgettable emotional journey. Kelli O'Hara is also quite amazing, with the beautifully clear, legit soprano that has been missing from Broadway for a long time. Except for the occasional dropping of the Southern accent, her characterization is flawless. And Matthew Morrison is just a joy to listen to. He has such a beautiful and unbelievably rich baritone, yet he keeps a boyish feel to it. The ensemble is equally amazing. It's so delightful to hear an old fashioned musical again.
     While the entire score is beautiful, there are, of course, some stand out songs, namely the title song, "The Beauty Is", "Dividing Day", the beautiful love song, "Say It Somehow", the journey of "Fable", and Morrison's shining moment, "Love To Me".
     The Light in the Piazza, originally slated to close January 31st, is still running in New York at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre in Lincoln Center, where the producers extended it's run again, this time through July 2nd. For those fans of musical theatre longing for the return of the classic musicals of the Golden Age, I highly recommend this show. If only I can make my way to the city to see it for myself.

1 comment:

  1. hhmmm...maybe i'll have to relent my criticism of Light in the Friggin' Piazza...sounds like it kicks the crap out of such idiocies as Frogs or La Cage Au Fols (sp?)...;-)...i hope i just offended some nerdy Weaver people ;-)