How to Stream Broadway’s The Light in the Piazza - The Lost Archive

How to Stream Broadway’s The Light in the Piazza - The Lost Archive

Having a Broadway show filmed for release is an uphill battle - from budgets that can compete with the original capitalization for the stage show, to complex contracts with multiple unions that all have to green lit the expensive capture.

While over 150 Broadway productions were filmed to date, a sizeable portion of them have either only managed to reach agreements for very limited releases, or got lost forever due to expired distribution rights.

From one-night cinema showings to limited TV airings, our Lost Archive looks at all the shows that spent millions on being professionally filmed - but have been long-lost. We detail the history of each production and try to understand the reasoning behind the limited release, and ultimately try to locate the lost recordings.

This week we'll look at 2006's The Light in the Piazza.

 


 

Based on the 1960 novella by Elizabeth Spencer, the musical is set in Florence and Rome in the summer of 1953. When her innocent daughter, Clara, falls in love with a Florentine boy named Fabrizio, a North Carolina mother, Margaret, struggles with the ideas of protecting her daughter — and allowing her to experience the world.

Following acclaimed runs at both Seattle's Intiman Theatre and Chicago's Goodman Theatre, The Light in the Piazza arrived at Broadway's Vivian Beaumont Theatre in spring 2005. The show marked Bartlett Sher's (The King and I, South Pacific) Broadway directorial debut and pushed back multiple LCT productions out of schedule due to its unexpected success on Broadway.

 


 

The show originally starred Victoria Clark and Celia Keenan-Bolger in the titles roles of Margaret Johnson and her daughter Clara, with Kelli O'Hara cast in the role of Franca, the Italian wife of Michael Berresse.

When the show was finally going to open on Broadway, producers told O'Hara they wanted her to audition for the role of Clara because Celia Keenan-Bolger appeared "too young" to play the 26-years-old character. Kelli eventually auditioned for the role and transferred with it to Broadway, earning her first Tony Award nomination.

The show received rave reviews from New York critics, with Victoria Clark's and Kelli O'Hara's performances generating the most praise. The musical was nominated for 11 Tony Awards, winning 6 including one for its star Victoria Clark and one for the show's hunting score by Adam Guettel.

 


 

In March 2006 it was revealed that Lincoln Center Theater and PBS were in discussions to film a performance of The Light in the Piazza for an episode of "Live at Lincoln Center." Unlike most captures nowadays (even those that air as part of "Live from Lincoln Center"), the musical was planned to air live to all participating PBS stations and not broadcast an edited performance.

Although the creative team wanted to have Kelli O'Hara reprise her Tony-nominated role for the broadcast, O'Hara was not available at the time of filming and Katie Rose Clarke (Allegiance the Musical) appeared in the filmed performance. Another missing original cast member was Matthew Morrison, who was replaced by Aaron Lazar in the role of Fabrizio Naccarelli.

On April 11, 2006, it was finally announced the show would air June 15, 2006 live from Broadway's Vivian Beaumont Theater. The show aired at 8 PM on New York City PBS station Channel 13 and later re-aired one last time on June 17.

 


 

The broadcast was a success for the network with a 1.9 rating, which represented more than 2 million viewers. Considering the Vivian Beaumont's size, this accounts for 1,795 sold-out performances, or a run of 5 years.

The show closed on Broadway the following month to make way for Lincoln Center's next production, after Piazza extended its run several times, and launched a US tour that same year.

According to "Live from Lincoln Center," The Light in the Piazza was only cleared for a limited television broadcast and "arrangements with the artists, guilds, and unions prohibit [them] from making [the show] available in any other form".

While Lincoln Center considered renegotiating some of its old contracts in 2020 in order to release theater material during the pandemic, plans never came to fruition and The Light in the Piazza remained locked in Broadway's lost archives.

 


 

How to watch "The Light in the Piazza" today?

Theater fans were quick to record the broadcast when it aired in 2006, with these private recordings typically available in low quality on popular video sites. Lincoln Center never released the source material of the show which was filmed in high definition, and due to that the only copies available are SD-quality VHS recordings.

The Light in the Piazza features one of Broadway's most hunting and beautiful scores. Together with Victoria Clark's Tony-award winning performance, this capture is an unmissable treat for every theater fan, and we are thankful the broadcast can still be watched in some form to this day.

Will we ever see an official, high definition release of Broadway's The Light in the Piazza? That seems unlikely due to the original contracts signed with the Broadway unions. If Lincoln Center would ever want to release the show in any format, they would have to re-negotiate contracts with everyone involved, which seems unlikely at this point.