Book by Craig Lucas, based on Elizabeth Spencer’s The Light in the Piazza. Music and Lyrics by Adam Guettel. The original Broadway production opened on 18 April 2005 and was directed by Bartlet Sher with musical staging by Jonathan Butterell, running for 504 performances.
Synopsis and Musical Numbers
Florence, 1953. Margaret and her daughter, Clara, are touring Italy. When they arrive in an empty piazza, Clara notices a dedication etched into the street. She asks her mother about the events that the words commemorate and Margaret fumbles through her guide book as she tells her daughter about that STATUES AND STORIES that form part of the history of the town – as, indeed, their story will become intertwined with the culure that seems so foreign to their own. The piazza comes to life and Clara explores the vibrant life that is presented to her (THE BEAUTY IS). A young man, Fabrizio Naccarelli, arrives in the Pizza and notices Clara, whose hat suddenly flies off her head. Fabrizio catches the hat and returns it to Clara, before intorducing himself in broken English. There is an instant connection between the young man and woman and when Margaret notices this, she quickly rushes over before things go any further. She takes Clara back to their hotel, leaving Fabrizio alone in the piazza, who has fallen in love with the woman he has just met (IL MONDO ERA VUOTO).
The Naccerellis, who own a local clothing shop, are amused and delighted to hear about Fabrizio’s experience of “love at first sight”. Fabrizio convinces his father, Signor Naccerelli, to help him meet Clara again – if Signor Naccerelli can distract Margaret, then Fabrizio and Clara may have some time to get to know each other better. This works out remarkably well and Clara and Fabrizio are able to share a tender moment together (PASSEGGIATA), while Margaret accepts an invitation to have supper with the Naccerellis. Signor and Signora Naccerelli welcome the JOhnsons into their home, where it becomes clear that all is not entirely well between Fabrizio’s brother, Giuseppe, and his wife, Franca. Franca confides in Clara, telling her that THE JOY YOU FEEL whilst falling in love may not last forever.
Back at the hotel, Clara recevies a note from Fabrizio asking her to meet him at the piazza. While she dreams about the things that lay before her, Margaret telephones her husband, Roy, to give him an update on their trip. The conversation reveals that their love has grown cold over the years and, after hanging up, Margaret contemplates the her own love life and marriage (DIVIDING DAY). Having saved up some money “for a rainy day”, Margaret decides to go out for a while. Knowing that opportunity is not a lengthy visitor, Clara sneaks out of the hotel to meet Fabrizio. She gets lost and finds herself in a seedy part of town, where prostitutes and pimps roam the streets closing their sordid deals. Frightened, Clara begins to work herself into a state of HYSTERIA but Margaret finds her before she comes to any harm and takes her back to the hotel. She leaves again and Fabrizio sneaks into their room. He awakens Clara and tries and tell her how he feels about her – but his broken English defeats him again and again. Clara simply encourages him to SAY IT SOMEHOW and he proposes marriage. As they make love, Margaret returns intuitively knows what has happened while she has been away.
Margaret, who feels that the more distance she can put between her daughter and Fabrizio the better, takes Clara to Rome. When Fabrizio hears the news of their departure from FLorence, he desperately begs his family for their helpe (AIUTAMI). In Rome, Clara won’t cast her memories of Fabrizio aside and, after an argument with Margaret in which daughter tells mother to leave her alone, dwells on her treasured moments with Fabrizio (THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA). Margaret realises that she needs to give Clara some measure independence to enable her daughter to live a happy life and agrees to return to Florence and discuss the wedding with Fabrizio and the Naccarellis.
Although Margaret finally agrees to support the marriage, she decides not to tell Roy, who (she feels) would immediately fly to Italy to prevent the wedding taking place. While the Naccarellis teach Clara the Italian she must know for the ceremony (OCTET), Franca passionately kisses Fabrizio. Clara is immesely angry (TIRADE) but her fiance comforts her with an assurance that she is the only one he loves (OCTET – REPRISE). Meanwhile, Margaret hopes that her daughter – who is mentally retarded and indeed much older than she appears to be – will be safe with Fabrizio and his family (THE BEAUTY IS – REPRISE).
But when the couple is asked to sign the papers in order for the wedding to be legal, Signor Naccerelli becomes exteremely angry when he see Clara’s age and realises the truth about her condition. Feeling betrayed, he announces that the wedding will not happen and the Naccarelli’s leave the church. Margaret appeals to Signor Naccerelli and convinces him to let the ceremony proceed (LET’S WALK, SIGNOR). Clara does not understand what what has happened but realises, possibly for the first time in her life that she is different to everyone else, becomes angry. But when Fabrizio is finally able to transform his feeling into words (LOVE TO ME), she is able to make peace with the fact that he loves her as she is. As the Naccerellis return to the church, Margaret pauses for thought. She considers what she has discovered about love in Italy and gives Clara her blessing to love, if she can, and be loved in return (FABLE). Margaret turns to see Clara watching her. She grabs her hand and, together, they walk into the church.
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: 1. The Light in the Piazza Original Broadway Cast CD. 2. The Light in the Piazza 1962 Non-Musical Film DVD. 3. The Light in the Piazza by Elizabeth Spencer. 4. The Light in the Piazza and other Italian Tales by Elizabeth Spencer. 5. The Light in the Piazza Vocal Selections.