Theatre: The Light in The Piazza, Royal Festival Hall

A musical love story performed with a 34-piece orchestra is heading to the Royal Festival Hall this summer, with a cast of West End favourites on stage.

The Light in the Piazza, an acclaimed Broadway musical by Craig Lucas – based on the novel by Elizabeth Spencer – is set in Florence during the summer of 1953 and is a touching and heart-breaking love story with a heavily romantic score.

The production follows mother and daughter, Margaret and Clara Johnson, and Clara’s love pursuits that affect the relationship between the two.

Renée Fleming, a four-time Grammy winner and experienced Broadway performer from the USA, plays Margaret Johnson and said the role was one of her most challenging yet.

Renée said: “I love this show and this character. It’s such a compelling story and Margaret Johnson, whom I play, is such an interesting character.

“It’s so beautiful and another kind of challenge for me. It hits every mark on so many levels.

It’s rare that I’m able to play a role in which motherhood plays such a big part, and it’s a story with multi-multi-generational appeal – there’s something for everyone.

“It’s very powerful to me that the mother is wrestling with how to let her daughter go or not.”

Last year Renée was heard on the soundtracks of two Oscar nominated films, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

In September, she sang Danny Boy at the funeral of American senator and former presidential candidate, John McCain.

And in November, Renée performed at Buckingham Palace, singing for Prince Charles’ 70th birthday, capping a busy year for the 60-year-old soprano, but she believes The Light in the Piazza will be one her hardest challenges yet.

Renée said: “It will be a challenge, no question – you have to sing smart and remember that you don’t have to create this wall of sound that carries over the orchestra. For once I’ll be miked.

“I learnt so much from my young colleagues on Broadway. I was amazed at how little actual output of sound there is in what they do in the rehearsal space. “They’ve really learnt the techniques of trusting amplification.”

The Broadway musical theatre repertoire has been a big part of Renée’s musical history.

“I grew up with it, my siblings and parents were all doing our own musicals,” she said. “When jazz became a fascination for me, I knew that it was based on the American songbook, which all comes from the American musical and that comes from operetta.”

The Light in the Piazza runs from June 14-July 5 and will also star Dove Cameron, of Disney’s The Descendants fame, as Clara Johnson and Rob Houchen, who has had previous West End success in Les Misérables, as Clara’s love interest, Fabrizio.

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