Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Stage Door Theatre: The Light in the Piazza (3 reviews)

The Stage Door Theatre opened its production of  The Light in the Piazza on March 4, 2011.
The Light in the Piazza takes place in Florence, Italy, in the summer of 1953. A beautiful and innocent young tourist loses her hat in a gust of wind. It lands at the feet of a handsome young Florentine. They fall in love. As their relationship develops the girl's mother must reveal the truth that will surely test that love. It's Broadway's newest love story--with a thrilling score filled with honest emotion and soaring romantic melodies. Winner of 6 Tony Awards.
Michael Leeds directed a cast that included Gabrielle Visser, Lara Hayhurst, Dylan Thompson, Bruce Reybold, Tony Ramos, Jennifer Bennett, and Natalie Ramirez.

John LaRiviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
While the costumes, set and orchestrations for The Light in the Piazza are all pleasingly executed, it is the singing that makes this production momentous... This musical therefore requires trained, experienced singers thoroughly prepared and rehearsed. The Stage Door Theatre exceeds expectations with a cast that sings this musical with breath-taking beauty.
Gabrielle Visser focuses on the meaty acting of the role of Margaret in a way that almost makes one forget she is singing the majority of her dialogue. The transitions into speaking seem quite natural. It is a pleasure to see a well written part for a middle-aged woman in musical theatre that doesn't make her the sassy sidekick.
Natalie Ramirez (Franca) has the sexy appeal of a young Sophia Loren tied to a singing voice that rings with beauty. Jennifer Bennett as Signora Naccarelli has a brief moment of self-disclosure in the second act that reveals warmth and humor as well as a skillful singing voice.
Lara Hayhurst is a wonder as Clara. She possesses the physical and vocal beauty of the character, and captures the right child-like exuberance... when she gushes forth notes with effortless sweet abandon...
Dylan Thompson, as Fabrizio, masters singing his songs with an Italian accent that only adds to the romantic sound of his voice. Individually good musicians, Thompson and Hayhurst are even better when brought together. Stephen Sondheim has referred to Guettel's work as "dazzling," and that is exactly what this production is from the first note to the very last.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theatre Review:
To embrace the risk of hyperbole: The Broward Stage Door production of The Light in the Piazza may be the finest locally-produced musical theater since Floyd Collins at Actors’ Playhouse in 2003.
The most obvious asset is a nearly flawless cadre of skilled singers who can act. ...when Thompson breaks into the passionate declaration of love Il Mondo era Vuoto, you realize that almost the entire cast is that good.
Leeds has elicited pungent performances and staged the evening with a fluidity echoing the score. Just seeing the unapologetic, uncensored rapture suffusing the lovers’ faces is guaranteed to arouse the audience’s recollections of their own youth. You can feel the lovers and the parents achingly reach across the language barrier and the cultural prejudices to make a connection that encompasses all human endeavor.
....the set designed by Ardean Landhuis inventively solves the problem of Stage Door’s limited budget. The venerable arches may seem a bit too brand-new, but the scenes deftly change with sliding stage-high Renaissance and medieval paintings that echo the action. Clara and Fabrizio pledge their love before a huge canvas of ancient lovers doing the same. When Clara becomes lost in the city, panels glide around like ever-changing walls of a maze. The atmosphere is deepened by Andrew Meyers’ lighting communicating different locations, times of day, even the raging emotions inside the characters.
This Light in the Piazza can’t match the well-financed masterpiece production at Lincoln Center in 2005 – but it’s as close as any local company is going to achieve. If you want to see what musical theater can be, why it remains a vibrant and vital art form even today, get yourself to Stage Door.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...Broward Stage Door Theatre has crafted its own Light in the Piazza. And the performances — the element most critical to the success of this particular musical — impressively meet the demands of the piece.
Under Michael Leeds’ insightful direction, everyone from the leads to the supporting cast delivers strong performances and looks period-perfect in outfits by Marilyn Wick of Costume World Theatrical. Visser does a particularly haunting job with Margaret’s rueful rumination on her own marriage, Dividing Day. Thompson, possessed of a gorgeous and soaring voice, becomes a man possessed by love. In myriad ways both large and small, Hayhurst effectively underscores the child within a beautiful young woman. And as Fabrizio’s family, Bruce Rebold, Jennifer Bennett, Tony Ramos and Natalie Ramirez are straight out of a Fellini movie.
A Light in the Piazza plays at The Stage Door Theatre through April 10, 2011.


  1. There is simply no way the Broward Stage Door - a 100% non-Equity theatre company that openly hates Equity members - can produce a show (using TRACKS and not even a few live musicians) that comes close to this review. I do believe the S FL critics have lost the last vestiges of my respect. (Which is particularly sad because I usually think Mr. Hirschman is on the money and supports local professional theatre.)

    What is our community coming to when we have to contend with the BSD being taken more seriously (in reviews and the Carbonell awards) than say FL Stage? Take a look at the just posted review for GHOST-WRITER Is it because the bar is so low at the BSD and so high at other theatres? Is this why critics just can't see the forrest for the trees?

    Comparing this theatre company to ANY of our other professional companies is just an insult to all hard working theatre professionals - and ruins all credibility.

  2. Anonymous -
    Sorry, but you're full of crap. Have you seen anything at Stage Door recently? I have. They've been doing solid work.

    Would their musicals be better with live music? You betcha. Does canned music mean it has to suck? Nope. Does a union card come with a guarantee of talent? Nope. It doesn't even guarantee hard work, although if someone's slacking, it gives the producer some small leverage.

    And FYI, I have worked as an Equity actor and AEA stage manager. I've even worked in those capacities at Florida Stage. Some of the best work I've ever seen has been at Florida Stage. But they've done a couple of real turkeys, too. Nobody hits a home run every time.

    Unless you've actually seen the production, Anonymous, you're not fit to judge whether or not this company's work can be rated alongside other companies' work. If Florida Stage can once in a great while stage an utter piece of crap (which I'm not saying they've done with Ghost-Writer, BTW), another theater could once in a great while stage something really terrific - "even" Stage Door.

    Bill signs his reviews; his name is right there at the top. He's putting his reputation on the line, and don't think he doesn't know it.

    You, on the other hand, don't even have the guts to use even a pseudonym when you call him out, much less your actual name.

    So I have to say that Bill has credibility, and point out that you, whoever you are, can't possibly have any credibility whatsoever.

    Me? I'm gonna go and see for myself. That's how grown-ups settle this kind of thing.

  3. I've just seen the show - and sorry, Anonymous, Bill was spot on. Which surprises even me - even I thought the comparison to Floyd Collins was probably over the top - but no, it's accurate.

    The performances, the direction, the design elements - all lived up to the hype. The only flaw I found was too much reverb during the songs. Why are they suddenly in the bottom of a well? But even that didn't detract from the overall quality of the work.

    This was a solid piece of theater, and you should make the time to see it.

  4. Anonymous,

    I am so disturbed anyone would actually think we "hate Equity actors". Most of my closest friends remain in the Union, and I support them completely in that. I was Equity for most of my 40 year career in the business. On the contrary, we offer comps to Equity and a guest for all of our shows. We only parted with Equity over the fact that after 9/11, our subscribers did not return, and we could not afford the contracts anymore. Know you are always graciously welcomed at our theatre. Please come and judge the work for yourself, as dozens of other Equity actors do all the time.


    Derelle Bunn
    Producing/Artistic Director
    Broward Stage Door Theatre

  5. Anonymous tried to post blather and innuendo, ending with "I bet you won't post this." And you're right. If you have an accusation to make, provide the facts to back it up.