Firstly an admission, as this is a Mountview Academy student production, if it had been terrible, I wouldn’t have had the heart to rip it to shreds and would have let it pass by without comment. However, it was truly wonderful and well deserves all the praise it can get.
Only last week we were mightily impressed by Floyd Collins, currently playing at the Southwark Playhouse, so we were hugely looking forward to this later Tony award winning work by the same composer, Adam Guettel, with a book by Craig Lucas, based on a novella by Elizabeth Spencer. Set in Tuscany in 1953, the story follows a young American woman, Clara, on holiday with her mother, who meets and falls in love with a local lad, Fabrizio. Their fledgling romance is thwarted by the mother and it is only as the story unfolds that we find out the cause of the mother’s disapproval.
As the young couple, we had Kayleigh Louise-Smith with a bell-like singing voice as Clara and Nik Parks as the love-struck Florentine, again with a great voice, conveying total emotion whilst speaking and singing much of his role in Italian. I often have problems with students playing much older characters, but the standout in the entire cast was the incredible Joanna O’Hare, as Margaret, Clara’s mother. She is an amazing musical theatre performer with great range and control and a fantastic actress to boot. I had to look at her biography during the interval and she’s not even 21 until the end of this month. Look out for her gracing a West End stage soon.
As the story progresses the focus of the piece becomes a mother's desire for only the best for their child, whatever it takes, and Margaret's initial maternal protectiveness becomes something darker, eventually at the expense of her own relationship with her husband.
Providing great support, again playing much older, Rhys Ruggerio and Robyn Grange made me eat my words yet once more giving marvellous performances as Fabrizio’s parents and Joseph Giaccone, as Fabrizio’s ne’er do well brother and Alessandra D’Aveno, as his long suffering wife were consummate performers. These four, together with Nik Parks, have a terrific act two opening number of Italian family squabbling, during which the mother’s asides to the audience reveal she is wise to her husband’s extra marital dalliances, but she turns a blind eye for the sake of her family.
With Margaret and Clara’s plans gaining momentum, their secret comes close to being exposed and the desire of a mother to fulfil the dreams of her daughter becomes dangerously all consuming.
The five piece band of strings, clarinet & piano were perfect and the entire cast did Mountview proud. I was enthralled throughout and I cannot believe that there has not been a professional run of this show in London, but really with a student production of this quality, who cares? The future of musical theatre is in very safe hands indeed.Booking until 3 March 2012, only one day left, hurry! The Light on the Piazza