A Florentine Romance in Leicester?

Posted on May 17th, 2009

Something extraordinary is happening in Leicester. The newly opened Curve Theatre – so high-tec, high-spec that it appears somehow to have “materialised” rather than been built in what was the scrag-end of Leicester’s town centre – is hosting the European Premiere of Adam Guettel’s Tony Award winning musical “The Light in the Piazza” and if you’ve any serious interest in the genre you have one more week to catch a show that I have no hesitation in placing among the finest music theatre pieces written in two decades or more.

That a piece like this has not been seen in London (and that producers are not as I write falling over each other to transfer this production) says so much about the ghastly predictability of the times we live in. Whatever happened to embracing and rewarding quality? Are we now so lazy as a nation that producers only feel they have a hope in hell of selling anything more sophisticated than “Legally Blond”; or that hasn’t been cast from a TV reality show.

The irony is that Leicester audiences are falling under the spell of this exquisite show: a heartbreaking story, beautifully told through a score so suffused with rapture and yearning that you ache at its consonance. When words are no longer adequate the characters in this show go into orbit with their soaring vocalise. Guettel, whose grandfather was Richard Rodgers, inherited the family’s melodic genes alright, but his voice (like all the great ones) is unique. In Leicester there is a 15-strong band (almost unheard of nowadays) sounding pretty much acoustic under Julian Kelly’s loving direction and a cast every bit as strong as that which graced the New York production. Matt Rawle, the West End’s recent Zorro (and before that Che in the “Evita” revival) sings so beyond his “normal” voice that it is as if he has been reborn.

There have been dramas – Lucy Schafer, the show’s by all accounts luminous leading lady, lost her voice two days ago (she should be back Tuesday) but even her game substitute, script in hand, did not compromise the magic.

Go if you can (shamefully, this may be your last chance to see the show in the UK) and thank you, Paul Kerryson (Curve’s Artistic Director) for yet again bucking the trend and bringing us the shows that no one else will touch.

Posted in Reviews

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