Italian love story warms up the HART

Bringing a little warmth to the impending fall weather, the Haywood Regional Arts Theatre in Waynesville presents “The Light In The Piazza” this month.

Taking place in Florence, Italy (circa 1953), the story unfolds as a Winston-Salem mother and daughter visit the picturesque country. From the beginning, there seems to be something emotionally off with the daughter (Clara), which is only magnified by the obsessively nurturing and protective mother (Margaret). 


The duo soon crosses paths with an Italian boy (Fabrizio) whose gaze never once leaves the direction of Clara. Margaret is well aware of the budding romance and looks to put a stop to it. Throw in an array of dysfunctional and unique secondary characters, and you have one touching and freewheelin’ musical.

“It has the lyricism and big singing moments we associate with Rogers and Hammerstein, but you have a very real story,” said Kristen Hedberg, who plays Margaret. “And, among those bigger moments, you have these wonderful colors reminiscent of Stephen Sondheim.”

Amid the couples involved in the plot, each symbolically represents a season of the year, more over, a season of the heart, which can start fresh and young and sometimes end cold and alone.

“Anyone can relate to somebody in the show,” Hedberg said. “What I love about Margaret is that she struggles with relationships and situations but wrestles herself out of her comfort zone enough to make changes in her life.”

With a handful of scenes entirely spoken in Italian, director Charles Mills likes the idea of no subtitles or hand holding of the audience.

“Hopefully, they’ll understand what’s going on with how the characters interact with each other, which is great because it requires active participation and having to pay attention,” he said.

Adding to the difficult nature of casting the play, which involves operatic voices that also can do comedy, the score of the musical involves only string instruments and a piano.

“It’s different from a lot of things because the orchestra is all strings,” said Steven Lloyd, executive director at HART. “It’s very lush and very romantic. With the music being difficult, it requires some major voices. We have a powerhouse cast, about half of which are from Western Carolina University.”

Bridging together HART and WCU, Lloyd looks forward to continuing a professional relationship with the institution by offering students performances that will stand out on a resume.

“I hope we can continue to offer the students opportunities here and be able to pay them,” he said. “If you’re a student studying theater, you need to have professional credits to get into other organizations.”

A musical theater major at WCU, junior Tierney Leigh Cody plays Franca, the sister-in-law of Fabrizio.

“She’s a very passionate character,” said Cody. “She’s not afraid to be angry, especially with her husband, who she’s normally angry with. She’s very good at getting her point across.”

Reflecting on the style of musical, Cody points out this isn’t your run-of-the-mill production, rather something that combines real emotion with striking melodic soundscapes.

“Everything about it is breathtaking. It’s a love story, which is timeless,” she said. “It’s a very complex plot. It’s not something you flick through on television — you can get into it and get your heart into it.”


Want to go?

“The Light In The Piazza” will run at the HART in Waynesville at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays Oct. 5-6, 12-13, 19-20 and at 3 p.m. Sundays Oct. 7, 14, 21. Tickets are $24 for adults; $22 for seniors; $10  for students. Box-office hours are 1-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 

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