Elizabeth Spencer's 1960 novella, "The Light in the Piazza," about a retarded American woman's romance with an Italian man in Florence, is the source material for the new Adam Guettel-Alfred Uhry musical, A Light in the Piazza.
The story, by Mississippi-born writer Spencer, who writes about Southerners and sets several of her stories in Italy, was also the basis for a 1962 film starring Olivia de Havilland, Rosano Brazzi, Yvette Mimieux and George Hamilton.
The Southern-bred Uhry told Playbill On-Line May 12 the musical is still set in Florence and has a fairy-tale quality to it. "It's a romance," Uhry said.
Guettel himself described the new work as a love story. "The goal is to really make the audience feel like they're in love or deperately want to be in love...I just want people to feel that feeling for those two hours," Guettel told Playbill On-Line in February 1999.
The musical was intended to be workshopped at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and produced at the Goodman Theater in the first few years of the millennium, as part of Guettel's unique composer-in-residence status with both companies. However, Guettel withdrew himself from the Brena and Lee Freeman Sr. Composer-in-Residence program in April 1999, six months after he accepted, "due to time constraints inherent in the property he is developing," according to a statement from Lyric Opera of Chicago. Lyric Opera general director William Mason, Goodman artistic director Robert Falls and Guettel all agreed "that the window of time is simply too limited to make production possible with the two Chicago companies," according to a statement.
Another candidate for the Freeman Composer-in-Residence program is being sought by Lyric Opera and the Goodman. Michael John La Chiusa (Hello Again) is continuing with the program, as previously announced, with The Enigma Variations, inspired by the story behind Elgar's orchestral work of the same name. The goal of the two-theater program is to produce major new musical works that "transcend the boundaries between opera and theater."
In the meantime, Uhry and Guettel will continue A Light in the Piazza on their own. A draft of the show is imminent, Uhry said.
The show's title may still be in the works. Although Uhry used the title A Light in the Piazza, and Guettel's Floyd Collins program in Chicago affirms this, the composer's bio in the program for his May 12 Town Hall concert said the musical is "a love story, as yet untitled."
-- By Kenneth Jones
and Christine Ehren