Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
My Fair Lady
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule
My Fair Lady is always a marvelous musical, but the Lincoln Center Theater touring production now in the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington shimmers with powerful performances, sumptuous staging, and Bartlett Sher's way of directing that allows small, individual moments to stand out among the larger ensembles and scenes.
Photo by Joan Marcus
Since the musical has been one of the best known and loved in the Broadway canon since its premiere in 1956, followed by the Oscar-winning film adaptation in 1964, the question is why an audience should see it again. Sher brings an immediacy to individual performances in the midst of the crowd, Christopher Gattelli's choreography covers the gamut from decorous waltzes to bumptious music-hall numbers, and Alan Jay Lerner's book (adapted from George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion) and lyrics and Frederick Loewe's music are treated with the respect they deserve.
To begin with, Shereen Ahmed is a blazing Eliza Doolittle. She plays Eliza as a scrapper who knows what she wants, with a generous sense of fun (demonstrated especially in the Ascot scenes), and she has a soprano vocal range that can stay grounded in the lower register or soar.
Sher has envisioned Henry Higgins as younger and somewhat less abrasive than the model set by Rex Harrison. Laird Mackintosh fills the role very capably as an intellectual cheerfully oblivious to his utter lack of tact, with a lovely light singing voice. His relative youth plays out well in the scenes with his august mother (Leslie Alexander, perfectly poised) and with the more worldly Colonel Pickering (Kevin Pariseau).
With his two show-stopping production numbers, Alfred P. Doolittle always dominates his scenes. Adam Grupper nails the comic timing, the Shavian discourses on individual responsibility, and Gattelli's rowdiest choreography, including dancing girls in magenta costumes for "Get Me to the Church on Time."
The physical production, adapted for a traditional proscenium stage from the original thrust stage at Lincoln Center, is a delight as well. Michael Yeargan's sets range from individual pieces (the façade of Higgins' house, the grand staircase into the ballroom) to a massive structure on a turntable that depicts several interior rooms separated by doorways. Catherine Zuber's costumes follow themes set by each location: the opening scene's crowd in Covent Garden consists of the lower class in drab dark colors and the rich in jewel tones, while at Ascot, Eliza's gown with black bodice and black-trimmed hat stand out against the chorus in off-white and dove gray. (So, of course, does Henry's defiantly inappropriate suit in a sea of formal dress.)
My Fair Lady
December 17, 2019 - January 19, 2020
Book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Music by Frederick Loewe
Adapted from George Bernard Shaw's play and Gabriel Pascal's motion picture "Pygmalion"
Eliza Doolittle: Shereen Ahmed
Freddy Eynsford-Hill: Sam Simahk
Mrs. Eynsford-Hill: JoAnna Rhinehart
Ms. Clara Eynsford-Hill: Fana Tesfagiorgis
Colonel Pickering: Kevin Pariseau
Selsey Man: Wade McCollum
Professor Henry Higgins: Laird Macintosh
Hoxton Man: William Michals
The "Loverly" Quartet: Mark Aldrich, Colin Anderson, Shavey Brown, William Michals
Frank, the Bartender: Mark Banik
Harry: Patrick Kerr
Jamie: William Michals
Alfred P. Doolittle: Adam Grupper
Flower Girl: Colleen Grate
Mrs. Pearce: Gayton Scott
Mrs. Hopkins: Mary Callanan
Higgins' Butlers: Mark Aldrich, Colin Anderson
Higgins' Maids: Mary Callanan, Nicole Ferguson, Juliane Godfrey, Colleen Grate
Mrs. Higgins: Leslie Alexander
Charles: Brandon Leffler
Stewards: Michael Biren, Shavey Brown
Lord Boxington: Mark Aldrich
Lady Boxington: Anne Brummel
Constables: Michael Biren, Shavey Brown
Professor Zoltan Karpathy: Wade McCollum
Hostess: Anne Brummel
Footmen: Mark Aldrich, William Michals
Queen of Transylvania: Jennifer Evans
Mrs. Higgins' Servants: Brandon Leffler, Rommel Pierre O'Choa
Ensemble: Mark Aldrich, Rajeer Alford, Colin Anderson, Polly Baird, Mark Banik, Michael Biren, Shavey Brown, Anne Brummel, Mary Callanan, Jennifer Evans, Nicole Ferguson, Juliane Godfrey, Colleen Grate, Patrick Kerr, Brandon Leffler, Nathalie Marrable, William Michals, Rommel Pierre O'Choa, JoAnna Rhinehart, Fana Tesfagiorgis, Michael Williams
Directed by Bartlett Sher
Choreography by Christopher Gattelli
Music supervision: Ted Sperling
Opera House, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 800-444-1324 or 202-467-4600 or www.kennedy-center.org
For more information on the tour, visit www.myfairladyontour.com.