|From left: Eliza Dolittle (Leischen Moore), Col. Pickering (Gary Chambers) and Henry Higgins (Jonathan Bill), photo by Kat Dollarhide|
Saturday, May 26, 2018
My Fair Lady at Tacoma Musical Playhouse
By Alec Clayton
Published in The News Tribune, May 25, 2018
For a fun three hours of musical entertainment you can’t go wrong with a well-staged production of Lerner and Lowe’s perennial favorite “My Fair Lady” – even if you’ve seen it many times before. This one never gets old. And Tacoma Musical Playhouse’s production is as good as any you’re likely to see from a regional company.
The story, adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” recounts what happens when an arrogant, self-centered but brilliant professor of phonics bets he can teach an uneducated woman who butchers the queen’s English to speak and act so graciously as to be passed off as a high-class lady.
The gentleman professor is Henry Higgins (played marvelously by Jonathan Bill, most recently seen as Frank Abagnale Sr. in “Catch Me If You Can”). The “guttersnipe” (Higgins’s descriptive term) is the poor cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle (Leischen Moore). The friend with whom Higgins makes the bet is Col. Hugh Pickering (Gary Chambers). I can’t imagine better casting for these three major characters. Bill plays Henry Higgins as snooty and full of himself, but with a subtle undercoat of well-concealed humanity. Chambers, who has been outlandishly good in many recent plays at Lakewood Playhouse, nicely underplays Col. Pickering as one of the most down-to-earth characters in the play. And Moore shimmers and captures the audience’s heart as the delightful Eliza. She is funny and loveable, she sings wonderfully and handles the changes in accents with ease – or seeming ease, as she probably worked like the devil to make it look easy.
Outstanding in supporting roles are Andrew Fry as Eliza’s drunken, scheming father, Alfred; Diane Bozzo as Henry’s mother; Colin Briskey as the simpleton Freddy Eynsford-Hill, who falls helplessly in love with Eliza; and Marion Reed as Henry’s house servant, Mrs. Pearce. Reed’s strong voice stands out distinctly in ensemble songs.
As it happens in many musicals, there is usually some star-quality ensemble actor who stands out in the big production numbers. In TMP’s “Catch Me If You Can” that stand-out ensemble actor was Cameron Waters, and here he is again as an unnamed drunk cohort of Alfred Doolittle. I could hardly keep my eyes off him, especially in the song and dance “With a Little Bit of Luck.” Watch for him to start showing up in leading roles soon.
What makes “My Fair Lady” so enjoyable is first that the story, while being a bit of fluff on the surface, skewers the pretentions of the upper class and pokes at the lower classes in a delightful and non-judgmental way; and second because it is filled with great music. How could you not enjoy songs like “Wouldn’t it be Loverly,” “Get Me to the Church on Time,” “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “On the Street Where You Live”?
John Chenault’s lighting, John Douglas Rake’s direction and choreography, Jeffrey Stvrtecky’s music and Bruce Haasl’s sets hardly need mentioning, as they are always terrific. To that list of worthies, I should add Jocelyne Fowler for outstanding costume designs.
“My Fair Lady” is a long show at three hours, but the time flew by for me.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through June 10
WHERE: Musical Playhouse at The Narrows Theatre, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma
INFORMATION: (253) 565-6867, http://www.tmp.org