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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
My Fair Lady
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You might say the only American contributers to this quintessentially English work were Frederick Loewe & Alan Jay Lerner who simply provided the unforgettable music and haunting clever words. Lerner had a hard act to follow, adapting Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion which was itself inspired by Ovid's poem about a sculptor whose statue of a beautiful woman comes to life.
MFL worships words more than sculpture as a metaphor for life best lived and those who treasure memories of the wonderful movie version will find new delights in the stage production. It's particularly apparent in the character of Alfred Doolittle, Eliza's father, played here with roguish élan by Tim Jerome. A wily con man, when his talents are appreciated and he inherits some money, it pretty well ruins his life, which he keeps on living with his customary what-the-hell flair. Shaw's dialogues between Doolittle and Higgins were slyly strewn with class and political allusions, many of which didn't make it to the movie version. It's surprising how Shaw this musical is.
Bourne makes him the centerpiece for two great dance numbers, "With A Little Bit Of Luck", in which the dancers use ashcans for everything from dance shoes to cymbals and "Get Me To The Church On Time", a breathtaking cross between something too spontaneous for a bachelor party and too bawdy for a boy's night out.
Lisa O'Hare gives a vivid professional performance as Eliza and what she does with her exquisite voice is amazing. Her flair for comic timing is superbly revealed in the Ascot teacup scene. As Higgins, Christopher Cazanove's face is deceptively angelic and his bullying of Eliza which turns her from a Cockey guttersnipe into an elegant lady is obtusely brutal. We get a glimpse of his inner child when Eliza leaves him at his mother's house and he calls "Mother"on a desperate note of infant abandonment. Trevor Nunn underlines the chemistry between the two from the very beginning by highlighting musical chords when feelings start to simmer between the professor who is afraid of being bossed by women and the flower-girl who trusts him through her angry tears.
The supporting cast includes Walter Charles as a wry Colonel Pickering with a deliciously understated sense of humor; Justin Bohon as a rather over-the-top Freddy Eynsford-Hill; Barbara Marineau as Higgins' housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce, whose few singing lines make one wish to hear more from her; and Marni Nixon, who sang Eliza for Audrey Hepburn in the movie version, among many other Hollywood stars, as Mrs. Higgins, in an acerbic but welcome apostrophe.
Anthony Ward's scenic and costume design is for the most part irreproachable, though the choice of unrelieved black gowns for the Ascot Gavotte seems unlikely and depressing, despite the exquisite opulence of the concepts. All things considered, this is a production worthy of a 50th Anniversary celebration.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide