The lush and winsome musical “Light in the Piazza” is now on stage at ISU. Enrico Spada directs this quirky story about the transforming power of love and what it means to let go.

“Light in the Piazza” is set in Florence, Italy, in 1953. Margaret and Clara Johnson, mother and daughter, are wealthy North Carolinians on vacation in this “city made of stories and statues.” In a piazza, Clara’s hat blows off, Fabrizio catches it and the entire plot is set in motion. It is pretty much love at first sight for naïve Clara, who is thought to have some impairment due to a childhood accident, and Fabrizio, who doesn’t speak English.

Margaret is ever vigilant to protect her daughter and this romance, she’s certain, is impossible. Fabrizio’s extended family throws up roadblocks, too.

And yet.

Clara and Fabrizio operate on a higher plane. Their love is pure and, as it turns out, powerful. “Light in the Piazza” with its complex score is unabashedly romantic. It has an honest heart and is decidedly not for cynics.

Margaret, whose own marriage is lacking in love, has an enormous struggle. As she confronts her past, she must also decide if she should risk letting Clara try to spread her wings. The answer isn’t obvious.

The ensemble and orchestra do a fine job with this easy-to-like but hard-to-define score that combines many styles including opera and music theater. Some of the dialogue and singing is in Italian and communication between the Italians and the Americans is often funny and usually effective. Love, it seems, can transcend language.

Chloe Alexander as Clara has gorgeous vocals and a sweet innocence that fits her character. Michael Donelan, as Fabrizio, is full of unrepressed joy and it’s impossible not to root for him.

Margaret’s journey is central to the show and Sarah Seidler is remarkable in both the acting and the singing of this complex role.

“Light in the Piazza” is more elegant than many contemporary musicals. Think of it as fine dining.

Nancy Steele Brokaw is a freelance writer who reviews plays for The Pantagraph.


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