After having been developed at the Goodman Theatre four seasons ago and having headed off for a very successful, multi-Tony Award-winning Broadway run, “The Light in the Piazza” returns to Chicago with a more elaborate national tour and a much tighter work than last heard here. This is a show with a lot of heart, and as a love story, it succeeds wonderfully well, the music serving to intensify the emotions of the characters. The problem has always been with the source material itself, a novella that became a famous movie sans music that is shrouded in a mortifying 1950s sense of shame when it comes to mental deficiencies, whether real or imagined. These are things that simply weren’t talked about in those days, and it being the major plot device here reminds us of how far we have mercifully come. That said, and if you can get around more swirling harp glissandos than the old “Superman” TV theme music, constant Liberace-like piano arpeggios and the smaltzy overused strings, the show is also a reminder of how satisfying a basic love story can be when it effectively unfolds via music and is done by a gorgeous young couple who can sing and act their hearts out. The utopian Italy of this show has never really existed, but it is a wonderful place to visit for a couple of hours in any case. (Dennis Polkow)
This production is now closed.