PLAYBILL VIP SPOTLIGHT: NYC High School Staging of Light in the Piazza Hits Home With Tony Winner Victoria Clark

By Adam Hetrick
18 Apr 2013

Victoria Clark in The Light in the Piazza.
Photo by Joan Marcus

In addition to her baking skills, Clark has helped students navigate the challenging vocal and emotional waters of Guettel's rangy score. "One of the things we discussed was, when a composer takes you high up into the voice–because Adam writes for the voice so beautifully–there's always a reason for that," Clark said. "We had a good discussion about the men and women, as actors, emotionally supporting the passion that needs to be underneath those leaps up into the tessituras of the voice. Because otherwise, if you're not committed to that, the notes don't sound very good. Even with professionals! If you don't really know why you're singing, it doesn't sound great. They got it right away. I just introduced that as a concept, which is a pretty heady concept for high schoolers, but they were able to implement it really quickly."

"She's a very tactile teacher," Cimato noted. "She would adjust their posture, or change the angle of their head– just encourage them to breathe differently by actually having physical contact with them. It was remarkable to see the subtle changes that she could make in a gentle way would completely change the sound coming out of their body."

"Vicki's not looking to see us copy the Broadway production, she's really excited about seeing the kids create it new. She spoke to them about singing it as their own and interpreting it as their production. She has known the girl playing Margaret for many years, so their rapport is charming and they clearly inspire each other very much," Cimato added.

Clark, who was instrumental in creating the role of Margaret with the Light in the Piazza writers during numerous workshops and out-of-town engagements, praised senior Kaitlin Cullen-Verhauz, who steps into that role at Beacon. Cullen-Verhauz, who played cello on stage as Martha in Spring Awakening last season, plans to attend an acting conservatory in the fall.

"She's fantastic and not only is she making it her own, her vocal style is so very different from mine and she really makes it work," Clark said. "I hope Adam [Guettel] gets to see it. I think he'd really appreciate the way she's singing the score. She's really making it work with her instrument, and it's gorgeous."

For the record, Guettel attended a run-through of the production earlier this week and lent his support to the Beacon students and creative team.