“MY FAIR LADY”
Reviewed by Tony Annicone
New Bedford Festival Theatre’s 28th season’s musical is the classic Broadway smash musical “My Fair Lady” by Lerner and Loewe. This musical is hailed as the greatest musical of all time. It is the timeless story of Professor Henry Higgins, the crotchety, middle aged bachelor and phonetician and the Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, who becomes part of his experiment to transform her into a “lady.” She agrees to take lessons from Higgins after he insults her after their first meeting.
The story follows her rags to riches story in a joyful manner with fabulous and multitalented performers. This musical version is based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1914 play “Pygmalion” and movie version by Gabriel Paschal. Director/choreographer Michael Susko and musical director Juan Rodrigues have a magical formula for their sensational summer musicals and this extravaganza is no exception to the rule, making “My Fair Lady” one of their better collaborations. The must see summer musical wins a thunderous standing ovation at curtain call.
Michael obtains stunning performances from his hard working cast. He blocks the show splendidly and creates many picture postcard moments during it for the audience to savor and enjoy. Juan conducts a splendid 11 piece orchestra and keeps the harmonic balance between vocalists and musicians all night long. Michael’s marvelous choreography shines through in “Loverly”, “A Little Bit of Luck”, “Get Me to the Church”, a tango for “Rain in Spain” and the graceful “Ascot Gavotte” and Embassy Waltz which the cast executes perfectly. The show stoppers are “Little Bit”, “I Could Have Danced All Night”, “Get Me to the Church” and “On the Street Where You Live.”
This talented cast is headed by Peter Gregus who starred in “Jersey Boys” for 11 years on Broadway. He learned this huge role in two weeks, is fantastic as Henry Higgins. His diction is so precise that you understand every line and lyric he utters. Peter brings this curmudgeon to life perfectly as he yells and rails at people to do his bidding. His strong singing voice starts off the show with the tongue twisting “Why Can’t the English?” teach their children how to speak. Peter continues with his expert handling of “An Ordinary Man” until you let a woman in your life. Later on he delivers the goods in “Hymn to Him” about why can’t women behave like men. Peter tugs at your heartstrings in his poignant rendition of “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” when he laments the loss of Eliza. His comic gems are “Rain in Spain”, his interactions with his mother and “You Did It” when he receives all the praise for Eliza’s success at the ball. Bravo! Peter and I worked at Theatre by the Sea back in 1986 in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”
His leading lady is excellently played by beautiful brunette, Lindsie Van Winkle who has a glorious soprano voice. She handles the transition from Cockney flower girl to refined high class British lady perfectly. Lindsie’s interactions with the whole cast are marvelous to behold. Lindsie’s numbers include “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” which turns into a brilliant dance, “Rain in Spain” when she learns how to speak properly at last, and the exuberant “I Could Have Danced All Night”, when her crush on Higgins becomes apparent. She also excels in her three angry numbers, “Just You Wait” where she’s exasperated by Higgins lessons, “Show Me” when she takes out her anger on Freddy when Henry takes credit for the ball and in “Without You” when she finally stands up to his bullying ways at last. Lindsie’s voice soars off the charts especially impressive is her high C in “I Could Have Danced All Night” which sends chills up your spine. She also displays her comic prowess in the Cockney scenes and in “Dover, move your bloomin’ arse” scene, too. Peter and Lindsie have a lot of chemistry together in their scenes as these leading players.
Higgin’s right hand man Colonel Pickering is played with gusto by George Charbonneau. He plays this stodgy elderly gentleman to the hilt as he shows respect towards Eliza. George obtains a chance to display his singing voice in “Rain in Spain” trio and especially in his solo “You Did It” when he sings of Higgins success at the ball. The biggest scene stealer is Jay Burke as the constantly drunk, Alfie Doolittle, Eliza’s father. His acting is as marvelous as his singing voice which he displays in the show stopping dance numbers “A Little Bit of Luck” and “Get Me to the Church.” The leaps in this latter number are astounding. His over the top acting leaves you laughing in the aisles.
Tall, handsome, blond haired Andrew Tighe shines as Freddy with his stellar tenor voice. His “On the Street Where You Live” is astounding and perfectly performed. Andrew is a hoot as this spoiled, rich idler who falls madly in love with Eliza. Staci Morin is terrific as the snooty Mrs. Pearce. Her fabulous soprano voice soars in the servant numbers and her one liners are topnotch, too. Nancy Ellen Shore shines as Mrs. Higgins, playing her with the right amount of indignation and feistiness. Nancy is especially funny in the Gavotte scene and later on when she utters “Bravo Eliza” when she finally tells the pompous professor off. The most outstanding numbers are Alfie’s two numbers and the “Ascot Gavotte” where the upper crust Brits show no reaction to the race at all. The gorgeous multitude of costumes are by the talented Emily Taradash especially impressive are Eliza’s costumes after becoming a proper lady. Also there is a nod to the movie with black and white costumes in this race scene with only Eliza in color. While the amazing sets are by Christopher McCollum for the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre. Kudos also to the singing and dancing chorus who do spectacular work in this show with dance captain Andrew Winans leading the way. So be sure to catch Michael and Juan’s phenomenal production of “My Faire Lady” at the beautiful Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford, MA. Tell them Tony sent you.
MY FAIR LADY (21 to 30 July)
New Bedford Festival Theatre, Zeiterion Theatre, 648 Purchase St, New Bedford, MA
1(508)994-2900 or www.nbfestivaltheatre.com