BWW Reviews: Candlelight Pavilion Scores Once More with a Loverly MY FAIR LADY
Called by many the perfect musical, My Fair Lady based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion has perhaps the wittiest and showiest debate between the sexes. Shaw despised marriage and loved to magnify human frailty, both female and male. And with Lerner and Loewe to create the book, music and lyrics, the result is a creation with music and story that flow together in ideal harmony. Even when its at its abrasive best, it's funny; even when Professor Henry Higgins is obnoxious, selfish and self-centered to the hilt, we cannot help but to laugh with him...and love him. Despite what a man says about a woman, he cannot live without her, and vice versa. We were born to live in a love/hate relationship, to be at each other's throats and in the next second, rolling around in the hay. It's all a part of life and Shaw, Lerner and Loewe displayed the ups and downs of romantic living better than anyone else...period. Now in a loverly production at Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre, patrons are in for a real treat through March 16.
In musical theatre one longs for beautiful music, fine dancing, of course a story that will engage and titillate, a love story or two at the core, and a cast and director who will pull it off with panache. As in the case of My Fair Lady, other musts are sets and costumes. For those of you who remember, the 1965 film with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn was ultra elegant, and so any theatrical production must try to live up to the original if at all possible. Within Candlelight's limitations... after their splendid production in the fall of Sweeney Todd, I perhaps should not mention limitations, as that production had none. Well, there is no live orchestra, but that is not a hindrance, as the recorded tracks are vibrant and harmonious, to be sure. This theatre, I'm rephrasing, has no limits. And this production of My Fair Lady sings out with the best of them in every conceivable way.
Casting is so important and Candlelight's own John LaLonde plays Higgins without a flaw. He displays every ounce of egocentricity to the max, yet still manages to make the man...just a man and thoroughly likable. He sings, moves and plays the role deliciously. Jessica Bernard makes a perfectly scrumptious Eliza Doolittle; like the chocolates she devours, some sweet, some bitter, she pulls out all the stops, bringing complexities to the surface that Eliza never knew existed before her transformation. Her change from frump to elegant lady is perfect, and she sings like an angel, very much like Julie Andrews. Neil Dale has his best role to date as Alfred P. Doolittle, Eliza's father. He's a little young for Doolittle, but has such unadulterated spunk and a charming, genteel manner with which to carry off the maliciousness, that he makes the unsightliness sparkle.
Corky Loupe is just fine as the affable Colonel Pickering as is Candace Elder as Mrs. Pearce and Diane David brings just the right uppercrust charm and warmth to Mrs. Higgins. Kristopher Sundquist may not be a great choice for Freddy, but he does possess a nice voice. Others in the ensemble add color and presence and under Austin's finely paced direction and with Hector Guerrero's excellently modulated choreographic moves, they are in fine form, as in the opening Covent Garden scene and in the "Ascot Gavotte" at the end of Act I. Costumes by The Theatre Company coordinated by Jenny Senior are divine, especially Eliza's gowns, and Higgins' library set is quite rich in detail.
There are no finer tunes than "I Could Have Danced All Night", "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face", "With a Little Bit of Luck", "On the Street Where You Live" and "Get Me to the Church On Time". Lerner and Loewe's music is brilliantly character-driven, like the story, and really comes to fiery life with "Why Can't the English?", "Just You Wait", "Hymn to Him" and "Without You". This production of My Fair Lady is another feather in Candlelight's cap, and you will not want to miss it. As always, the food and service were as loverly as the show itself.