Review Roundup: MY FAIR LADY at The Guthrie
The Guthrie Theater opened My Fair Lady, the hummable, quotable, utterly enjoyable musical for the whole family. Playing for the first time at the Guthrie, under the direction of Joe Dowling, My Fair Lady features Helen Anker as Eliza Doolittle, Tony Sheldon as Colonel Pickering, Donald Corren as Alfred P. Doolittle - all in their Guthrie debuts - and Jeff McCarthy as Professor Henry Higgins.
Let's see what the critics had to say:
Graydon Royce of the StarTribune: The show is in that handful that people trumpet as, "The perfect musical." No argument here. Frederick Loewe's score gorgeously underpins Alan Jay Lerner's adaptation of Shaw's "Pygmalion." The hummable songs are legion; the story big and human... The Guthrie's staging (designed by Walt Spangler) sprawls out in several London locations: the big clean stone exteriors at Prof. Henry Wiggins Wimpole Street address; Higgins' study, defined by a spiral staircase to die for, and the hard precincts where Eliza Doolittle and her mates scratch out a life.
Chris Hewitt of twincities.com: There are some lively supporting characters, one of whom threatens to steal the show, but the show boils down to Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle. Higgins is a cocksure expert on dialects who bets he can turn Cockney Eliza into a genteel lady. Over the course of the evening, he makes good on his bet, but, satisfyingly, it also becomes clear that Higgins is in for some lessons, as well. While he's teaching Eliza about class, she is teaching her proper-but-rude instructor about humanity.
Mary Aalgaard of Play Off the Page: The Guthrie's Eliza, Helen Anka, most surely is ever so slightly possessed by Shaw's real-life inspiration, Eliza Armstrong, whose mother sold her off for five pounds, the same amount that Professor Higgins "pays" for "his" Eliza. My friend and I both enjoyed Donald Corren's portrayal of Alfred Doolittle. Despite his obvious character flaws, using his daughter for money, drinking himself silly, he's a character you love to watch, and Donald gave him a lovable flair!
Eric Ringham of State of the Arts: Take Eliza Doolittle. On Broadway, Julie Andrews was a little too clean under the fingernails for the guttersnipe version of Eliza; she sang "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" in a voice too perfectly trained, and sounded like Julie Andrews doing a Cockney accent. But Helen Anker gives Eliza a ragged voice that sometimes wanders off pitch, as it would if she spent her days breathing cold, sooty air and hawking flowers to the odd professor of phonetics.
City Pages: Loaded with confident performances, dynamic dancing, and gorgeous singing (honestly, I don't think I've ever heard these Lerner and Loewe songs sung so well).
Christine Sarkes Sasseville of Aisle Say Twin Cities: The entire cast and crew deserve praise for infusing the play with energy, fine comedic touches and brilliant vocal performances. Of the leads, Anker's portrayal of Eliza Doolittle was heartfelt, funny and enthusiastic, while McCarthy as Higgins gamely displayed the arrogance and cluelessness of his social class. Supporting cast stand-outs were Sheldon's Colonel Pickering, Michaels as the lovestruck Freddy and Donald Corren as Elisa's father, Alfred P. Doolittle. Costume Designer Fabio Toblini, Set Designer Walt Spangler, Music Director Andrew Cooke and Choreographer Joe Chvalashould also be mentioned as contributing to a thoroughly enjoyable evening. You will be humming 'I Could Have Danced All Night" all night.