Love, Italian Style 

In the Tony-winning The Light in the Piazza, young Clara gets kicked in the head by a pony. Then, while vacationing in Italy with her overprotective mom, she falls for local lothario Fabrizio. But her mother worries that her equine-induced autism prevents her from feeling true love. “It’s about the beauty of surrendering yourself,” says Gina Vernaci, vice president of theatricals at Playhouse Square, where the musical opens tonight. “Can the mother let the young bird fly?”

Based on a novel by Elizabeth Spencer (which was made into a 1962 movie starring the perpetually tanned George Hamilton), the tale centers on the childlike Clara. “It’s an extraordinary story,” says Vernaci. “It’s like taking in a magnificent painting.”

The play’s celebrated sets and score have wowed audiences, critics, and Tony voters, who handed out six awards to the play in 2005. “I’m curious to find out how many people will want to go to Italy after this show,” says Vernaci. But as pretty as it looks, The Light in the Piazza is a real heartbreaker. “You get swept away. You’ll learn the difference between listening with your heart versus simply listening with your ears.”
Tuesdays-Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 1:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 21, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Starts: Jan. 17. Continues through Jan. 28

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