This musical by composer Adam Guettel and playwright Craig Lucas, based on Elizabeth Spencer's novel and a 1962 film version, begins conventionally. Set in 1953 Florence, it focuses on the budding romance between an innocent American tourist, Clara, and a passionate Italian youth, Fabrizio--a relationship that disturbs Clara's seemingly overprotective mother, Margaret. Her concern becomes more understandable when it's revealed that Clara is mildly mentally disabled as the result of a childhood riding accident. As Margaret wrestles with how--or whether--to explain the situation to Fabrizio and his effusive family, she confronts the loneliness of her own marriage. Guettel, the grandson of Richard Rodgers, is a prodigiously gifted musical dramatist whose rapturous, operatic, Tony-winning score beautifully conveys the story's emotional complexities. This touring edition of director Bartlett Sher's 2005 Broadway production stars the expressive Christine Andreas, who perfectly conveys Margaret's struggle to reconcile hope and logic. Katie Rose Clarke and David Burnham are thrilling and poignant as the young lovers, and Jonathan Hammond and Wendi Bergamini provide fiery, sometimes comic contrast as Fabrizio's womanizing brother and his volatile wife. a Through 7/22: Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 2 and 8 PM, Sun 2 PM, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, 312-902-1400, $18-$70. --Albert Williams
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Joan Marcus.