Review: "Only Mozart is Missing" Scores a Family's History

Only Mozart is Missing (Manca solo Mozart)

Written and directed by Antonio Grosso

Performed by Marco Simeoli

Presented by Altra Scena and Viola Produzioni

May 2, 2023 at Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò at NYU, 24 W 12 St., Manhattan, NYC

May 3, 2023 at the Center for Italian Modern Art, 421 Broome St., Manhattan, NYC

May 6, 2023 at Marygrove Conservancy, 8425 W McNichols Rd, Detroit, MI

Marco Simeoli. Photo by Francesco Nannarelli.
For Salvatore Simeoli, grandfather of writer, director, and actor Marco Simeoli, music is life, and life is music. Salvatore, we learn very early in Marco's humorous, big-hearted solo show Only Mozart is Missing (Manca solo Mozart), always loved music and credits music with his success in life, which is tied to the music shop which he opens in Naples. The show, written by Antonio Grosso, who also directs, is based on Simeoli family lore, particularly on stories from Salvatore, whose personal experiences compose a melody that weaves through several decades of often discordant twentieth-century Italian history. Only Mozart is Missing, performed in Italian with English supertitles, is presented this month as part of the 2023 In Scena! Italian Theater Festival, taking place throughout NYC's five boroughs from May 1st through 16th.

Amidst a profusion of sheet music artwork hung on the wall and littering the floor of the stage, Simeoli, as his grandfather, recounts the founding of the shop, its growing success, and his growing family of children with "original" names. The first time that the coming world war enters the picture is through a joke, but, of course, the effects on the family business–and the nation–prove to be more somber, and one anecdote in particular is characterized by patently tragic irony. In contrast, a segment in which Durante, one of Salvadore's sons, is selling apples because music isn't selling anymore is very funny even as the circumstances are very much not. The shop however, endures, into the 1960s and Italy's economic recovery, into the 1970s and the rise of organized crime, and we hope that it does not spoil anything to say that, should you happen to find yourself in Naples, you can still visit the shop, Musica Simeoli, and join the ranks of its many famous visitors over the years. A fun and unexpected musical number near the end in fact brings us into the present day, both musically and generationally.
Marco Simeoli. Photo by Francesco Nannarelli.
Simeoli is a charming, high-energy performer, who attains auctioneer levels of rapidity in portions of his delivery (don't expect each and every word to be reproduced in the supertitles). With his voice and body as his instruments, he fashions a symphony of characters, some family, some colorful visitors to the shop or other Neapolitans. The strong use of color in the lighting design at points complements Simeoli's skipping through time and among characters. And throughout all those changes, whether he is playing a haughty wife or a mobster or his own grandfather, the show returns unfailingly to music as a throughline and a lifeline. Offering glimpses of the political through the personal and dashes of poignancy amongst the hilarity, Only Mozart is Missing makes an entertaining but sincere argument for the universal power of music.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards

More from our 2023 In Scena! coverage:

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