Saturday, November 08, 2014

My Fair Lady

They could have danced all night. 

Under the capable hands of choreographer Ron Cisneros, the cast of Davis Musical Theater Company’s production of “My Fair Lady” danced around Covent Garden, the Ascot Races, and an Embassy ball, and they got Alfred P. Doolittle to the church on time.

Directed by Steve Isaacson, this production brought the DMTC faithful to their feet with a standing ovation at the end of the show.

This is a show that has a special place in Isaacson’s heart because it was his first memory of music.  He remembers the iconic album cover of Al Herschfeld’s drawing of George Bernard Shaw as God manipulating the puppet strings of Rex Harrison, manipulating the puppet strings of Julie Andrews.  “For years I thought God looked like George Bernard Shaw,” he says.

Isaacson’s love of this Lerner and Lowe musical is apparent in every scene.

It had been Jori Gonzales’ dream to play Eliza and her dream comes to life as she dons the rags of the flower girl Eliza, later struggling to learn her vowels, and finally making a triumphant appearance at an Embassy ball, ultimately finding her voice and pride in herself as a woman. Gonzales has a beautiful voice and one loves to float along on her high notes.

John Haine takes a little adjusting to as Henry Higgins, but once one realize he is only going to use a barely perceptible British accent and can concentrate just on his performance, he does a beautiful job. Better no accent than a bad accent.  This Higgins has little concern for the rules of social conduct, cares little for his appearance (rumpled, ill-fitting trousers), and treats everyone badly, but his fun side comes out in the classic “I could have danced all night” and his petulant confrontations with his mother (the always delightful Dannette Vassar).

Richard Kleeberg is Higgins’ sidekick, Col Hugh Pickering, without whom Eliza might never have consented to subject herself to Higgins’ relentless elocution lessons.  Kleeberg is a blustery Pickering, with Arthur Sullivan-like mutton chops.  But he is the eternal gentleman, who (almost) always treats Eliza with dignity and respect.

Eliza’s father, Alfred P. Doolittle, the dustman who is not above selling his daughter to Higgins–but not for too much money, because too much would change his life, is given a royal treatment by the marvelous Brian McCann. McCann is always a delight to watch on stage and he does not disappoint in this production.

Scott Scholes is the lovesick Freddy Eynsford-Hill, so enamored of Eliza that he prefers to spend all of his time “on the street where she lives.” Scholes brings a clueless innocence to the role and a tenor voice that is outstanding.

Higgins’ housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce is given a fine performance by Catrina Ellis.  Mrs. Pearce is critical of much of what Higgins does, but she is a loyal employee and follows his directions to the letter.

“My Fair Lady” must be a costumer’s dream (and nightmare!), with all those elegant gowns for the ball, fun costumes for the dustmen of Covent Garden and the spectacular black and white costumes for the Ascot races.  Jean Henderson does a wonderful job with this show and Ascot, in particular, is memorable.  Eliza’s white gown and red coat for the Embassy ball are dazzling.

Isaacson also designed the sets, which are utilitarian, though not outstanding.  Higgins’ study, with its elevated “library” is quite nice and the steps entering the ball look steep enough that one is glad there is a bannister for the women in high heels to hold onto!

“My Fair Lady” is a classic piece of American musical theater and DMTC has served it up in good shape for the Davis audiences.  

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