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Arena Stage The Light in the Piazza

By • Mar 30th, 2010 • Category: Reviews

As the clock ticks towards the long awaited completion of the new Arena Stage in Washington, DC, this theatre company perseveres and moves on by bringing us top quality productions at locations in Crystal City, Arlington, VA and at the Lincoln Theatre on U Street in DC. What an enormous undertaking to stage productions in two venues. As a theatre reviewer I am grateful Arena has continued to bring us such productions as their latest, The Light in the Piazza. This show has struck a note that the Broadway production never quite achieved. What could this possibly be, you might ask… how could a regional company ever achieve what a Broadway Theatre, with the production fund aplenty be able to accomplish? I mean, after all, Broadway Theatres have the top stars in their shows, don’t they?

I’ll tell you what this musical did here at the Arena Restaged venue that the Broadway show could not do. In a word, US! Yes, they grabbed you at the opening number and bring your heart and soul with them through their journey. You’re there in Tuscany and Florence. You share in their love and anguish and torment and fears. In a word, WOW! You had me from the start.

The Light in the Piazza tells the story of Margaret Johnson (Hollis Resnik), a middle-aged woman, who takes her beautiful daughter Clara (Margaret Anne Florence) to Florence, Italy for a vacation in the springtime. Holles Resnik is exquisite in this leading role. She is a giving artist who, with a beautiful voice, can exude chemistry with every member of her cast. A brilliant performance.

As Margaret reads from her guidebook to Clara in the piazza, a breeze carries Clara’s hat off her head and across the square where a young Italian man Fabrizio (Nicholas Rodriguez), who is fabulous, catches it in the air and returns it to her. Love strikes them both but mother steers them away from each other. Margaret Anne Florence’s voice in singing “The Beauty Is” was so captivating and alluring; she brought us out of the audience and invited us to take her journey with her. She was magnificent in her complete understanding of her character’s innocence. This understanding and her beautiful voice to match her own beauty will win you over.

Signor Naccarelli, Fabrizio’s father played by (Ken Krugman) to help him in with Clara’s mother so he can profess his love to Clara. Ken Krugman plays the father so real I felt as if he were my father. There are Fabrizio’s brother Giuseppe Nacarelli, admirably played by (Jonathan Raviv) and Giuseppe’s wife Franca Naccarelli (Ariela Morgenstern). Ariela is fabulous as well. Her ability to feel the pain of distrust and also caring was heartfelt.

Wow! This story is so full and complete in the telling and singing. The songs are wonderful, the acting is the best. The cast is unbelievable. I can truly say that this Arena Stage cast was and is better than the cast at the Lincoln Center Theatre. This musical is truly a must see.

What a wonderful transition from the Lincoln Center Theatre to Arena. Great job Molly Smith (Director). The Music Director, Paul Sportelli, was superb. Seeing the orchestra atop, almost looking down from the heavens. The Set Designer, Anne Patterson, did so very much with so very little. You filled the stage! Well done! The Lighting Designer, Michael Gilliam was a master with his lighting. Setting and changing the emotional backdrop of each scene. Excellent!

Photo Gallery

Hollis Resnik as Margaret Johnson Hollis Resnik as Margaret Johnson, Margaret Anne Florence as Clara Johnson and Nicholas Rodriguez as Fabrizio Naccarelli
Hollis Resnik as Margaret Johnson
Hollis Resnik as Margaret Johnson, Margaret Anne Florence as Clara Johnson and Nicholas Rodriguez as Fabrizio Naccarelli
Hollis Resnik as Margaret Johnson and Margaret Anne Florence as Clara Nicholas Rodriguez as Fabrizio Naccarelli and Ariela Morgenstern as Franca Naccarelli
Hollis Resnik as Margaret Johnson and Margaret Anne Florence as Clara
Nicholas Rodriguez as Fabrizio Naccarelli and Ariela Morgenstern as Franca Naccarelli
Ken Krugman as Signor Naccarelli, Nicholas Rodriguez as Fabrizio Naccarelli, Ariela Morgenstern as Franca Naccarelli and Mary Gutzi as Signora Naccare Margaret Anne Florence as Clara Johnson and Nicholas Rodriguez as Fabrizio Naccarelli
Ken Krugman as Signor Naccarelli, Nicholas Rodriguez as Fabrizio Naccarelli, Ariela Morgenstern as Franca Naccarelli and Mary Gutzi as Signora Naccare
Margaret Anne Florence as Clara Johnson and Nicholas Rodriguez as Fabrizio Naccarelli
Nicholas Rodriguez as Fabrizio Naccarelli  and Margaret Anne Florence as Clara Johnson
Nicholas Rodriguez as Fabrizio Naccarelli and Margaret Anne Florence as Clara Johnson

Photos by Scott Suchman.

Disclaimer: Arena Stage provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has been involved in theatre for over 40 years in the local Washington DC Metro area as well as NYC and London England. Mark has performed at the Dramatist Guild Theatre on Broadway, at The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre Off-Broadway. His credits include work in many local theatres as well: The Folger Theatre Group, Arena Stage, New Playwrights Theatre, 7th Street Players, The Keegan Theatre, The American Century Theatre, The Journeyman Theatre, ASTA Theatre, The Hayloft Dinner Theatre (Associate Producer), The Lazy Susan Theatre, Discovery Channels, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (Frankenstein) with Donald Sutherland. London, England credits include work at: The Duke of York Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre, The Questors Theatre, The British Embassy Players. Mark is a graduate of The Drama Studio, London, England. Mark is also a narrator of audio books for Gildan Audio: “True North”, by Bill George; “Never Give Up”, by Tedy Bruschi and “Five Minds for the Future”, by Howard Gardner among them. Mark currently teaches Advanced Acting at The Little Theatre of Alexandria and still performs locally in many theatres.

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