Spencer’s The Light in the Piazza Debuts in London

Spencer’s The Light in the Piazza Debuts in LondonJune 24, 2019 (London, England) - The influence of Belhaven alum and Mississippi author Elizabeth Spencer ‘42 is reaching all the way to London, England. Big names in theatre, a famous opera singer and a 40-piece orchestra were assembled to debut Spencer’s The Light in the Piazza at the Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall, June 14 – July 5, 2019.

“The London performances of The Light in the Piazza are another remarkable, and well-deserved, milestone in the long and storied career of Elizabeth Spencer,” noted Professor of English Dr. Randall Smith. “When she graduated from Belhaven in 1942, Spencer set the standard for literary accomplishment by our alums—a tradition that continues to the present through writers like Harrison Scott Key (winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor for The World's Largest Man) and Angie Thomas (author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Hate U Give).”

Opera star and Tony Award nominee Renée Fleming will headline the production of The Light in the Piazza. Fleming will play Margaret Johnson, and joining her will be Dove Cameron (Hairspray Live!, Clueless) as Margaret’s daughter Clara. Fleming and Cameron are both proven Piazza enthusiasts and love the works of Spencer. Fleming sings Margaret Johnson’s soaring “Fable” on her recent Broadway-inspired album, and Cameron has a record of publicizing her love of the musical via social media. 

Olivier Award-winning actor and director Daniel Evans, recently represented in the West End with the 2017 revival of Show Boat, will helm the presentation. The artists will be backed by the 40-piece Orchestra of Opera North, conducted by Kimberley Grigsby. The Orchestra of Opera North is universally praised by audiences and critics alike and perform regular concerts of major symphonic repertoire, gala concerts and collaborate with the region’s choral societies.

Based on Spencer's 1960 novel, the show tells the story of Margaret and Clara Johnson, a mother and daughter who, while vacationing in Florence, encounter a young Italian man. As he and Clara quickly fall in love, Margaret must reconcile her daughter's pursuit of happiness with a family secret that could threaten their romance.

Spencer's first novel, Fire in the Morning, was published in 1948. She has written a total of nine novels, seven collections of short stories, a memoir (Landscapes of the Heart, 1998), and a play (For Lease or Sale, 1989). Her novella The Light in the Piazza (1960) was adapted for the screen in 1962 and transformed into a Broadway musical of the same name in 2005. She is a five-time recipient of the O. Henry Award for short fiction. She currently lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.


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