‘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.

Your thoughts?
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  • It was the weather...and we are sorry we missed it.
  • The house appeared close to full on Wednesday night - with an audience that appreciated the delightful performance ('tho the nuanced humor seems to have been lost on some). The cast and staging were among the best I've seen in a touring musical. Lisa O'Hare as Eliza Doolittle was a dream - sweet, energetic and animated - and Jerome was a HOOT as her father, Alfred. I especially loved the dance numbers at the Ascot races. Unfortunately, the Clowes acoustics disappointed (as usual), so those unfamiliar with the story line and/or musical lyrics may find this charming story difficult to follow in this particular performance.
  • Am going tonight. I was so delighted to read your review...have thought this year's series has been pretty light. I'll make a point to post my thoughts tomorrow!
  • I fully agree for the most part, Lou.
    To get nit picky. There is lots of tiny futsing and tweaking with with
    as if the bugs were trying to be worked out of it. The bugs were taken out
    long ago. It is not often you get to see Marni Nixon (the singing voice of Eliza in the 1964 film) on stage. She is Mrs. Higgins in this production. Worth the ticket just to see musical theatre history in action. But I don't need to know the king dies or see 20 flower girls in the middle of I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face. Give the poor man his only ballad.
  • Also this has been the only UNION show in the season thus far.
  • I'm a bit tired this a.m. but completely loved every bit of My Fair Lady - the voices, costumes, sets, and especially the story. Not ashamed to admit anymore that I never saw My Fair Lady (in film or on stage); even though I'm a huge fan of so many musicals in the same time period. But seeing it as a newbie without the Hollywood version planted in the back of my head was refreshing. Couple obvservations: First, I just love the line You're so deliciously low. Perfect. Second: How could one of the most beautiful and recognizable singing voices of all time not sing in this production? (Marni Nixon). Kind of a downer. Last: loved seeing Clowes almost filled. This production deserved a packed house.

    Now, I will go and rent the film.
  • Jessica: One thing that hardcore theater folks sometimes forget is that no matter how tried-and-true a show may be, there will always be newbies in the audience. And thank goodness for that. A production that forgets about storytelling usually is a production that's just coasting. So glad the show worked for you.

    Ty: The King dying news barely registered for me. And the flower sellers were on and off pretty quickly and, for me, didn't distract from the song and, more importantly, the emotions of the song (okay, so they didn't add much either).
    And, yes, there is a huge difference between the overall quality of the union productions vs. the non-union shows.
    Any predictions for what's coming next year? I'd put money on Color Purple, Wicked and Drowsy Chaperone. Will have to check what non-union tours are heading out.
    Thanks for your thoughts,
    Lou
  • Here, here Lou. Yep, my money is on Wicked. I'll bet I enjoy it as much as I did in New York (the original production).

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