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Theatre / The Light in the Piazza

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The Light in the Piazza is a musical based on a 1960 novella by Elizabeth Spencer, with a book by Craig Lucas and music and lyrics by Adam Guettel. It ran on Broadway from 2005-2006 and was nominated for 11 Tony Awards, winning six of them, including Best Leading Actress in a Musical. Shortly before closing, it was filmed as part of PBS' Live from Lincoln Center series.

It's 1953 and Margaret Johnson and her daughter, Clara, are on vacation in Italy. On their first day in Florence, Clara's hat is blown off by a gust of wind and is caught by a young Italian man named Fabrizio Naccarelli. Clara and Fabrizio are instantly attracted to each other, but Margaret attempts to quell it. Fabrizio manages to turn up in all the places the Margaret and Clara are visiting, until Margaret's resolve is worn down. But as Fabrizio and Clara become more serious about each other, Margaret fears that a dark secret about Clara will be revealed.

The novella was adapted into a non-musical 1962 feature film, Light in the Piazza, starring Olivia de Havilland as Meg, Yvette Mimieux as Clara, and George Hamilton as Fabrizio.

This production includes examples of:

  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: Based on a 1960 novella of the same name by Elizabeth Spencer.
  • Animals Hate Her: The reason for Clara's brain damage is because she was kicked in the head by a pony.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Any of the Italian scenes to Italian speakers, since none of them are translated (save for one scene). They tend to feature a lot of snarking duels.
  • Bowdlerise: In many productions, Fabrizio and Clara don't have sex.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Signora Naccarelli, in the Act II opener "Aiutami":
    Signora Naccarelli: *in a perfect American accent, speaking directly to the audience* I don't speak English, but I have to tell you what's going on.
    • Margaret to some extent, as well, though it's hard to tell to whether she is 'thinking aloud at the audience' or she's 'talking to the audience'. Her role is somewhat of the Narrator, so it's debatable.
  • Childhood Brain Damage: Clara
  • Dark Reprise: "The Beauty Is", first sung by Clara and reprised by Margaret.
  • Eloquent in My Native Tongue: Fabrizio, whose English is extremely broken, yet he's quite poetic when singing in his own language.
  • Foreshadowing: Clara: "I think if I had a child, I would take such care of her/then I wouldn't feel like one"
  • "I Am" Song: "The Beauty is" for Clara
  • Innocent Innuendo: Fabrizio tries to tell Clara "your skin is like milk", but his English is so bad it keeps coming out as "your milk is..."
  • "I Want" Song: Also "The Beauty is", as well as "Il Mondo Era Vuoto" for Fabrizio
  • It's All My Fault: It's revealed that Margaret blames herself for Clara's brain injury. For one thing, she and her husband rented the pony for her tenth birthday party; then, when Clara and her friends were playing with the pony, Margaret took her eyes off of her for a moment to answer the phone...and that's when the pony kicked Clara in the head.
  • Meaningful Echo: First Fabrizio calls Clara 'la luce nella piazza' (the light in the piazza), later Clara calls Fabrizio 'the light in the piazza' and finally, Margaret calls Clara 'the light in the piazza' just before Clara and Fabrizio are married.
  • Meaningful Name: Clara, meaning 'light'
  • Meet Cute: Clara's hat is blown off by a gust of wind and Fabrizio catches it.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: Fabrizio has one before before the Big Note in "Il Mondo Era Vuoto", but he finishes it up after.
  • My Greatest Failure: For Margaret, it's turning to answer the phone while Clara and her friends were playing with the Shetland pony that they rented for a birthday party; the pony kicked Clara in the head and caused permanent brain damage. "I thought if I had a child, I would take such care of her..."
  • Oh, Crap!: in a rare funny moment, Margaret has this reaction to Signor Naccarelli insisting Clara convert to Catholicism before she marries Fabrizio.
  • Older Than She Looks: Justified with Clara—she's 26 years old and looks it, but acts like a much younger woman or even a teenager at times. It turns out that the injury she received as a child led her to become emotionally and mentally handicapped—her brain develops far more slowly than her body.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Margaret thinks that Signor Naccarelli is calling off Clara and Fabrizio's marriage because he deduced from her handwriting that she has brain damage. Why he actually did was because he saw her write her age on the nuptial form as "26", far older than he will allow for his son, who is 20.
  • Parents Walk In at the Worst Time: Cue intermission.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: All the Italian characters speak and sing in Italian unless they are communicating with an English character. No help is provided to the audience during these scenes (aside from a brief fourth wall breaker) and, for those who don't speak Italian, the meaning of the scene must be guessed at through context, body language and what words can be picked out.
    • One production even applied this to the opening announcement, having it all be in Italian but only translating the words "cellphones", "flash photography", and "emergency exits" into English.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Franca and Giuseppe.
  • Slow-Motion Fall: Not seen, but described by Margaret while talking about Clara's accident with the pony as a child.
  • Stepford Smiler: Franca, in "The Joy You Feel." Also, Margaret is this in some productions, depending on how they play her relationship with her husband (in case Clara's brain damage didn't meet the criteria already).
  • Younger than She Looks: Clara, in more ways than one.