The Light In The Piazza - A Florentine Cinderella StoryTuesday, September 20, 2011
|Dana Luccock & Kerry O'Donovan|
For me it began some three weeks ago when I attended a rehearsal at the Vancouver Playhouse facilities on Main Street and 2nd Ave. I watched what the director, Peter Jorgensen called (and he apologized to me for it!) a transition rehearsal. I would call it entries and exits.
I heard very little singing and during breaks the actors would sit in corners perusing books with the title Italian.
I watched the young and extremely good looking Adrian Marchuk who plays Fabrizio Naccarelli the Italian who falls for the young American girl Clara Johnson played by Samantha Hill. I could not judge their performance as they entered and exited.
It was better to watch the South African born David Adams (Signor Naccarrelli, Fabrizio’s father) who I have seen in many plays about town and is one of my faves. I had a chat with him and he told me that because of his looks and demeanor he plays lots of different ethnic roles. I remember in particular his performance last year in Anosh Irani’s (an Arts Club Theatre production) of My Granny the Goldfish.
When I mentioned to Adams that I knew retired UBC drama professor Errol Durbach he beamed. It seems that as a student under Durbach, Durbach pointed out that something that Adams had written needed to be acted out. He did. “I am an actor today because of Durbach.”
During the rehearsal I watched Katey Wright who plays Margaret Johnson, Clara Johnson’s pushy and protective mother (but a virtual dueña) and instantly disliked her. I was to change this premature opinion as in many ways she stole the show Tuesday night and got a standing ovation in the end.
Before leaving the rehearsal I took a portrait of Dana Luccock (a mezzo-soprano of operatic stature) who plays Franca Naccarelli, Signor Nacarelli’s much suffering daughter-in-law because of her philandering husband, Giuseppe Naccarelli played deliciously by the Bermuda-born Daren Herbert who would never pass as an Italian even in Sicily. Special note: watch for Herbert's deft juggling of a sugar lump. And watch for how Signora Naccarelli, played by Heather Pawsey manages to tell us the goings on even though she only speaks Italian.
Before I proceed I would like to lay my cards on the table. As an Argentine-born Latin I like my operas without talking and I have never really understood the concept of people suddenly starting to sing in the middle of a conversation. But thanks to repeated at attempts at understanding this strange medium that is the musical via many varied performances at the Arts Club Theatre I have come to tolerate and even appreciate the musical.
Without any trombones or, God forbid, trumpets, flugelhorns or electric guitars, the orchestra, Sean Bayntun, piano, Albertina Chan, harp, Janna Sailor, violin, Evan Bates, cello and Lyndon Surjik on double bass played brilliant, soothing, pleasant and elegant music, so unlike most musical music that when the play ended and the actors had retired, people lingered in the theatre to listen to the band play on. It is nice not to have an orchestra pit and to watch this orchestra as part of the stage all framed with moveable frames. A friend of mine who knows theatre told me, “The music of Adam Guettel (a grandson of Richard Rodgers) sounds so much like Stephen Sondheim that Sondheim should have sued!” I mentioned this to Straight theatre critic Colin Thomas who was sitting near me (by pure coincidence) who simply and most practically said, “Ample proof that the music is going to be good.”
I opened about theatre being fantastic. From the scruffy, ill-dressed Clara Johnson of the rehearsal weeks ago what I first saw was a Clara Johnson in a beautiful dress and hat looking prim and proper and truly beautiful. When she first connected with her soon-to-be paramour Fabrizio there was electricity (a believable one, watch out, Mrs. Hill wherever you might be!) which culminated in an erotic hotel room bed scene that strangely needs no parental guidance and children should be taken to see this show which really is a sort of Cinderella story.
My kudos to the musical direction of Sean Bayntun, the efficient control of exits and entries by director Peter Jorgensen and a special mention to the wonderful costumes by costume designer Jessica Dmytryshyn. That low cut red dress and pumps that Dana Luccock wore brought rumblings in my old plumbing.
But the play really belongs to Katey Wright’s Margaret Johnson who went from joy to perplexity to brooding and to depression and back to joy as quickly as the harpist Albertina Chan could strum her strings.
The Light in the Piazza runs until October 9.