Jennifer Hope Wills Leads MY FAIR LADY at Bellport's Gateway Playhouse, Now thru 6/24

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Jennifer Hope Wills, star of Broadway's "Phantom of the Opera" and "Wonderful Town," leads "My Fair Lady" at Bellport's Gateway Playhouse. The Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe musical plays now through June 24 and is the second show in the non-profit theatre's 63rd season.

Adapted from George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion," "My Fair Lady" centers on London phonetician Professor Henry Higgins and low-born, Cockney-speaking flower-seller Eliza Doolittle. Higgins wagers with fellow grammarian Colonel Pickering that Eliza can be elevated into upper-class Edwardian society through her speech. As they succeed, Eliza discovers his plot and Higgins' arrogance puts their love to the test.

The Original Broadway production debuted in 1956 and played for over seven years, amassing a then-record 2,717 performances. It won five Tony Awards including Best Musical, and starred Rex Harrison as Higgins alongside an up-and-coming Julie Andrews as Eliza. In 1964, the stage musical was adapted into a film with Harrison in his original role and Audrey Hepburn as a new Eliza. The movie won eight Academy Awards including Best Picture.

"My Fair Lady" includes songs such as "Get Me to The Church on Time," "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" and "Wouldn't It Be Loverly." Called "the perfect musical" by the New York Times, the show received multiple revivals in New York, London, Paris and Los Angeles, and toured internationally. It was previously produced by The Gateway in 1964 and 1995.

Keith Andrews directs and choreographs the Bellport production. Andrews has helmed many Gateway shows, most recently last season's "Spamalot." He directed the national tours of "Hello Dolly" and "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh," and his choreography for "Like You Like It" was nominated for an Innovate Theater Award.

Andrews is joined by music director Dr. Peter A. Pece who has performed at Lincoln Center and has arranged and performed musical revues for President George H. W. Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Dr. Pece continues his 20-year relationship with The Gateway.

Jennifer Hope Wills makes her Gateway debut as Eliza Doolittle. Hope Wills starred as Christine Daae in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera" and played opposite Brooke Shields as Eileen Sherwood in Kathleen Marshall and Marc Bruni's revival of "Wonderful Town." Other credits include Broadway's "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Woman in White," as well as Off-Broadway's "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn."

The versatile Jamie Jackson returns to Bellport as Professor Henry Higgins after portraying the title character in last season's "Sweeney Todd." Other shows include Off-Broadway's "The Brain that Wouldn't Die" and "The 39 Steps," as well as the national tour of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." He has appeared in HBO's "The Flight of the Concords" and NBC's "Smash."

Steve Brady is Higgins' accomplice, Colonel Pickering. Brady's experience includes the Broadway revival of "Inherit the Wind" and the national tour of "The Exonerated." Off-Broadway shows include "A Dangerous Personality," "The Power of Darkness" and "Poor Beast in the Rain." Brady has appeared in episodes of "Beverly Hills 90210," "Law & Order" and "Seinfeld."

Steve Luker plays Mr. Doolittle. Stage credits include Broadway's "42nd Street" and the first national tour of "Footloose." On television, Luker has held principle roles on "Law & Order," "One Life to Live" and "Hope and Faith," as well as a recurring role as Judge Murdoch on "As the World Turns."

Sharon Alexander, David Bryant Johnson and Melinda Tanner are Mrs. Pearce, Freddy Einsford Hill and Mrs. Higgins. Ensemble members Robert McCaffrey, Cheryl McMahon and Chelsey Whitelock portray Harry, Mrs. Hill and Mrs. Hopkins. Nathan Anderson, Aubrey Elson, Kevin Gutches, Scott Hamilton, Kate Kramitz, Allegra Leland, Emily Palmquist, Will Porter, Jeff M. Smith, Adam Soniak and Garrett Taylor complete the company.

Gateway's 2012 season continues with "The Rat Pack is Back," June 27-July 14; "9 to 5," July 18-Aug. 4 at The Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts; and "Phantom," Aug. 22-Sept. 9.

For tickets, performance times or other inquiries call(631) 286-1133 or 1-888-4TIXNOW, or visit www.gatewayplayhouse.org.

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