Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady, the masterful romantic musical take on George Bernard Shaw's witty and didactic play Pygmalion, is at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre. It's a delightful production by the Cardinal Stage Company, directed by Randy White.
Chris Vettel is every bit the distant, domineering dialectician and grammarian, Henry Higgins. For those who've grown up on the wonderful Rex Harrison film, he brings the added pleasure of a Higgins who can-and does!-sing. Frankly, it took a few verses to get used to, but then it was a pleasure throughout.
Although, like Harrison, Audrey Hepburn didn't sing either, those familiar with the film are used to Marnie Nixon's voice coming out of her mouth. So Chloe Sabin's singing in the role of the flower girl Eliza Doolittle was no surprise. Sabin has described the part as a dream role. She fully realized the variety of Eliza's gritty and progressively more graceful acts.
Robert Hay-Smith was Professor Higgins doughty companion, Colonel Pickering; Lisa Kurz the professor's long suffering housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce. Mary Carol Reardon was the professor's equally long-suffering mother.
Mike Price sang, danced and charmed his way roguishly through the role of Eliza's father, the poor, witty dustman. John McLaughlin sang beautifully as smitten Freddy. Music director Susan Swaney's deft touches were evident throughout. The cockney quartet was indeed âloverly,' and nicely matched by the quartet of Higgins' maids.
From top to bottom, the cast is an exceptionally attractive, strong and disciplined. In the big scene of the Ascot Opening Day, no one except the one person who was supposed to make a slight gesture moved a muscle. But in the energetic dances, choregraphed by Esther Widlanski, every one got into the act with vigor.
Splitting The Difference
There's a bit of tension in the final resolution of Liza and Higgins' relationship. George Bernard Shaw was adamant that though the two had come to respect one another: Higgins would remain a bachelor, and Liza would indeed marry Freddy. But when adapting his play for the musical, Lerner and Loewe felt that there had to be a romance between the professor and his prize pupil.
Cardinal has done a very graceful job of splitting the difference. In the final scene, when Liza expresses her independence, she happily settles down to read in the professor's study, while he-equally comfortably-relaxes at his desk.
The Cardinal Stage Company's production of My Fair Lady at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre has final performances Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, evenings at seven and matinees at two.
At the theatre for you, I'm George Walker.