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‘Fair’er by far: a winner at Clowes

March 5, 2008
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Blame it on the weather. Blame it on the familiarity of the material. Blame it on the lack of a name star.

But there were empty seats at last night’s opening of “My Fair Lady.”

It's a shame, because unlike many other touring productions, the show offered at Clowes Memorial Hall this week is a top-to-bottom first-class production of a great show.

The British production that sparked this tour doesn’t attempt to reinvent the classic. And it doesn’t impose a heavy directorial vision. It simply fills it with life. And while I usually confine my reviews to my IBJ print column, the limited run compelled me to tell you about it here.

Lisa O’Hare is luminous in the lead, believably transforming from the likes of Gilda Radnor to someone akin to Rachel Weisz over the course of the play. (Alert: There’s another actress in the role Thursday evening and for the Sunday matinee.) In great voice, O’Hare also gives a delightfully physical performance, gamely climbing over furniture in the first act. You are unlikely to ever hear a more charming performance of “I Could Have Danced All Night” than hers.

Christopher Cazenove subtly reveals more and more of Henry Higgins’ isolation as the evening goes on and, in the process, makes him even more likable as his statements become more reprehensible. And while you wouldn’t want to meet Tim Jerome’s Alfred Doolittle late at night in an alley, you should look forward to his two big numbers in the show (“Get Me to the Church on Time” is given a particularly strong design, taking us along on Doolittle’s pre-wedding night of debauchery).

Of course, there’s also Lerner & Loewe’s music and George Bernard Shaw’s solid—and very funny—backbone of a play. (Why, oh why aren’t there more regional productions of Shaw? It’s great stuff, folks.)

In the hands of professionals, “My Fair Lady” shines fresh.

For credibility’s sake, I should add something negative.

Hmmm.

OK, whoever was running the wayward spotlight did seem like he or she, in Eliza's words, "had gin ladled down the throat."

Besides that, applause all around. I could have stayed all night.

For more info on the show, click here.  It closes March 9.

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