- Photo courtesy of Martha Smith
- Becki Toth and Jeffrey Howell in The Light in the Piazza
You’ll forgive me if I’m more smug than usual, but I told you so.
Over the past few millennia I have, repeatedly, sung the praises of Becki Toth, an actress/singer who performs, mostly, with Stage 6, in Carnegie.
“Carnegie?” people’d moan. “That’s somewhere beyond … the West End Circle!!!” Heaven forefend Pittsburghers should cross a river to see talent, or visit a theater without a marketing department. So Toth has, over the years, racked up a catalogue of astounding performances most people have never seen.
And so my smugness was barely containable at Front Porch Theatricals’ presentation of The Light in the Piazza. At the New Hazlett Theater, the intermission buzz was: “Who is this Becki Toth? She’s a revelation!”
I’ve spent 20 years telling you.
Toth plays Margaret Johnson, an American matron touring Italy in the ’50s with her daughter Clara, whose childlike nature conceals a secret. Clara attracts the attention of a local, Fabrizio Naccrelli, and Margaret is torn between her daughter’s happiness and … well, let’s call it “guilt.”
Adam Guettel won huge praise, and a Tony, for this intensely lush, ultra-romantic score. It’s soaring in its lyricism, and beautifully executed by music director Camille Villalpando Rolla and her orchestra. But to tell the truth, I’m not particularly crazy about this show, its book by Craig Lucas. As much as I admire Guettel’s music, it’s a bit fatiguing, and the plot, taken from an Elizabeth Spencer novella, is, at best, hokum.
But none of that matters. Director, and miracle worker, Stephen Santa has assembled a cast of absolute perfection featuring performers who can melt with their talent. Linsday Bayer and Joshua Grosso, as the young lovers, sing with a beauty that can drive you into the back wall. Jeffrey Howell, Patrick Cannon and Richard Kenzie provide definition to underwritten roles and, out of nowhere, Antonia Botti-Lodovico sings the role of an embittered wife with a voice that could fuel a small city.
But even they can’t distract from Toth’s performance as a mother swimming in her own sorrow. When she sings (which, thankfully, is often), it’s a mesmerizing, life-giving experience only people who don’t care about theater would miss.
And I told you so.