Laura Benanti to replace Lauren Ambrose in MY FAIR LADY

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poisonivy2
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I think it's fair to say that Lauren Ambrose (from my experience) was vocally uneven during her run. There was one afternoon where nothing was working. She went up on lines repeatedly, her voice was weak and breathy, and she just looked out of it. Now knowing what I know, I feel terrible for her and admire her for pushing through the run despite such personal difficulties. I saw her another time and she was just radiant -- funny and charming, with a wonderful sense of humor and a sweet soprano. 

One thing about Ambrose was that sometimes I thought it was obvious she didn't have much stage experience. She didn't have that stage performers' trick of looking up at the spotlight and catching the light during the big moments, nor did she really learn the art of upstaging. But overall I thought her performance at its best had a wonderful simplicity and sincerity.

I'm seeing Laura next weekend and can't wait. I'm sure she'll bring her own qualities to the role. I think it's great that Sher recasts his productions with such care, so there's no dropoff in quality if one person leaves.

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OlBlueEyes said: "Would you think that this was a little harsh from Jesse Green regarding Lauren Ambrose, or is this fair play?

I mean no disrespect to Lauren Ambrose, who originated the role in this revival, to say that Ms. Benanti is a more effortless vocalist; she dispatches her very difficult and wide-ranging songs with glee, whereas in Ms. Ambrose’s performance, getting through them sometimes seemed like a metaphor for the character’s struggle.

Especially considering his initial review of her singing.

The big revelation of this production is that Ms. Ambrose has a stirring voice: lustrous and rich if without the bright ping of most Elizas. That turns out to be an advantage. She delivers her first number — “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” — very quietly and with an intense longing that digs beneath its surface charm to find its stillness and steel.

And what was revealed after Lauren had finished her run in her New York Times interview..

I dropped out of a few performances whenmy dad passed awayabout a month ago. To get to come back to the show and be surrounded by this amazing group of beautiful, feeling artists as I started the process of grieving and dealing with this new phase of life was really a gift, even though obviously incredibly challenging.

It had been a very intense time, an awful, weird time.I had this vocal problem for a little while, my voice was cutting out while I was singing. There were a few performances where I was having a crazy muscle tension thing. It was when I was going back and forth from New Haven, from the hospital. That was really stressful; my body wasn’t responding and performing the way I wanted it to.But it was amazing how supported I was by all of the people here.
"

I don't think it's unfair as it's close to how I would describe Ambrose. I'm a huge fan of Ambrose's Eliza and think she was Tony-worthy, but I think a part of her that I liked that was also a weakness was that she clearly was not a musical theatre regular and did not have the ease that a seasoned performer and stronger vocalist like Benanti has with the songs. That said, I do think Ambrose performed the songs very well at the same time even without that ease and her performance as whole simply worked for me as she did not play Eliza the way I'm so used to and played a more grounded and earthy Eliza.

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Thank you for the responses. Very insightful.

At other places I might be a little embarrassed to admit this, but here it seems quite normal. I saw Lauren in the role four times, from early preview to last performance (when I sat next to her Mom). Not just because of Lauren. It was the whole show.

The first couple of times I saw her in previews I thought a few times I noticed what quite a few had been complaining about here: She sang softly, I thought, and it was a little hard to hear her.

The other two times she sounded fine to me. I didn't notice her having any difficulties. Not that I'm any qualified judge. Anyway, she is a tough lady to have fulfilled her obligation through all that trouble.

I thought that Jesse Green could have omitted this line, which is a little disrespectful under the circumstances.

whereas in Ms. Ambrose’s performance, getting through them sometimes seemed like a metaphor for the character’s struggle.

 

As for Sher's casting, replacing Kelli O'Hara with the relatively unknown and inexperienced Laura Osnes must have been a tough call. I didn't see South Pacific with Laura in the role but she must have been pretty good if Sher brought her back to finish the run when Kelli left for good, after he had had a good chance to see her when Kelli went on maternity leave. Since the show's run lasted another six months or so with Laura, I assume that she must have been pretty good. But I think a few people here would dispute that.

Updated On: 2/6/19 at 11:12 AM
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I don't find what Green said to be harsh - it is true but it's part of what made Ambrose so thrilling in her own way. It wasn't effortless and she used it to her advantage.

We're lucky to have had two extremely different but excellent interpretations of the role over the past year. 

"Oh look at the time, three more intelligent plays just closed and THE ADDAMS FAMILY made another million dollars" -Jackie Hoffman, Broadway.com Audience Awards
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Big admirer of both Ambrose and Benanti.

Saw Lauren twice in MFL.  Her vocals were lustrous but at times effortful - it's true.  But she gave a beautiful performance.  And she and Harry knocked the conservatory scene out of the park both times I saw it.

I am so looking forward to seeing Benanti later this week.  Hope very much she's in the show.  Not a reflection on Benanti's not making performances, I'm sure she like Ambrose has good reason for missing any show.  More a reflection on my luck.

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I don't think that she's missed any performances lately. And there's no indication on Telecharge or LCT that she's going to be leaving the show in 10 or 11 days. In fact, she's booked to lead an ensemble at 54 Below next Monday in support of immigrant families. 54 Below is a nice place to see your favorite stars close up. And they let you take all the videos you want, as long as the flash is off. So the first time I took a video there my flash was on the whole time. And it was Mathew Morrison and Kelli O'Hara. They didn't throw me out.

I can't spend another big sum to see My Fair Lady again. But TheaterMania has a pretty good deal of $99 for all side orchestra and front center loge seats. Also $59 and $79 in the loge. It wouldn't hurt to see it from another perspective.

JSquared2
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OlBlueEyes said: "I don't think that she's missed any performances lately. And there's no indication on Telecharge or LCT that she's going to be leaving the show in 10 or 11 days. In fact, she's booked to lead an ensemble at 54 Below next Monday in support of immigrant families. 54 Below is a nice place to see your favorite stars close up. And they let you take all the videos you want, as long as the flash is off. So the first time I took a video there my flash was on the whole time. And it was Mathew Morrison and Kelli O'Hara. They didn't throw me out.

It's not that they LET you take all the videos you want -- it's just that it's a tight room, and it would be more disruptive to try and get you to stop during the performance.  What you are doing is incredibly rude and annoying --- bot only to the performers, but to the audience around you -- who are paying a lot of money to enjoy the performance.  

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I'm sure that you must be used to hearing this until you're sick of it, JSquared, but you are totally wrong. I'm not the kind of pushy person who tries to get away with something at the risk of being strongly rebuked. I asked several people who would know, not the wait staff, and was told that it was allowed. I repeated the process before I shot Linda Eder and Yazbeck/Osnes. 

I'm not sure how you figure that this annoys the people around me. I just stay in my chair; I don't get up and walk to a better location to shoot. I make no noise. I don't distract (well, maybe when I forgot to make sure the flash was off). I only shoot what my eyes can see from my chair. If I'm going to shoot videos, I spring for more expensive VIP or Ring Side tables with a clearer view.

I am a member, but that never came into play. In fact, now that I think of it, the last time I was there they made a general announcement that videos were allowed, but no flash please.

It's not easy running a cabaret like 54 Below profitably, When a big name act like Chita Rivera booked for two weeks cancels on short notice they are left scrambling to find replacements. Permitting videos helps fill some seats.

If you need further proof, check out YouTube for all the videos shot by private parties at 54 Below.

Don't apologize. We need combative people here to keep us all on our toes.

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Ambrose was funny.  Benanti is funnier.
Ambrose sang beautifully but always with seeming effort.  Benanti sings beautifully, effortlessly.

Projection:
Ambrose's vocal style forces the audience to pay close attention to everything she does. She requires a more active audience.
Benanti's style reaches out to the audience.  She's easier to watch and listen to - the audience can be more passive.

Benanti is polished, less soulful than Ambrose.  Ambrose soulful, less polished than Benanti.

Both women are great talents.

Benanti is a very fine actor with a sublime voice.
Ambrose is a sublime actor with a very fine voice.

But here's why ultimately I much preferred Ambrose to Benanti. 

With Benanti, one sees genteel bearing and elegance from scene 1.  Moreso than any Eliza I've ever seen.  There is nothing of the guttersnipe in her.  Usually in MFL - even with Audrey Hepburn - one believes that she and Higgins have an impossible task of transformation ahead of them.  Because of this there is always a great deal at stake.  This was perhaps never truer than with Ambrose who had everything of the streets in her Act 1 Eliza.  It is too easy to see the finished product of a Lady in Benanti from the start.  When she appears at 47A for the first time, one thinks "they really don't have much work to do."

When Benanti enters the drawing room in her ball gown she is regal, ready and confident.  There is absolutely no surprise in her loveliness.
When Ambrose enters the drawing room she is striving to be regal, ready and confident but her vulnerability was palpable and your heart leapt at how lovely she looked.

But more than that, Ambrose's Eliza was fragile.  Her vulnerability was ever present.  Her ultimate decision was powerful.  The arc of the character was clear and made the show come alive.
And Higgins domineering and belittling her was scalding.

With Benanti, Higgins control over her seems silly.  She is formidable from the get go.  Higgins claim that he made a woman of her - is a claim that can't be taken at all seriously.  It is unbelievable even that Higgins believes it - Higgins would have to be blind to not have seen a lady in front of him the whole time.  

In short, the show is now easier to listen to and more ordinary, it didn't break my heart.
With Ambrose, the story touched the heart in ways it rarely does.

In Benanti's final curtain, I saw Eliza's predictable fate - inevitable, preordained.
In Ambrose's, I saw Eliza's will, grit and courage.  What we now call agency.

Of course it goes without saying, but the above represents my own opinion; and I am of course aware of that and respect that others of good faith and sound mind will disagree and have disagreed.



 

Updated On: 2/9/19 at 09:24 AM
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henrikegerman, I agree with your assessment 110%. You put my exact thoughts that I was struggling to convey into words. I loved both Ambrose and Benanti, but there was something so incredibly moving about Ambrose's stunning performance.

"Thereís nothing quite like the power and the passion of Broadway music. "
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In related news:

Someone please get Danny an expert dialectician

Rosemary Harris I love you

Christian Dante White, Freddy, whom I first saw go on for Gavin Creel as Cornelius and nail that is the real deal. Somebody write him a show!

Updated On: 2/9/19 at 10:44 AM
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I think it's clear to me that the replacements aren't getting the time they need with a dialect coach, which is a shame because Danny and Laura are both giving phenomenal performances, accents aside. I would think Lincoln Center would have the resources for a coach.
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Danny's accent is still much better than Norbert's.

Benanti does slip into Melania mode occasionally.

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"I am so looking forward to seeing Benanti later this week.  Hope very much she's in the show.  Not a reflection on Benanti's not making performances, I'm sure she like Ambrose has good reason for missing any show.  More a reflection on my luck."

Rather than taking it as luck, why not ask the box office to exchange the ticket for another performance if you are in area to return. I've done that even if the performer isn't above the title, and they were always willing. I simply say that I came there to see X otherwise I would not have come. I don't ask for a refund; just another date. Just something to think about.

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According to tweet Laura Benanti just replied to a few minutes ago she has extended. Someone asked her if she'll still be in show 2/24 and she said yup.

I was there tonight. She was in and she was lovely. Her voice was wonderful. She had a cold you could tell she kept sniffling and blowing her nose, but she still hit the notes. Show sounded great.
PM me if you're interested in purchasing or trading signed playbills! I have a large collection! :)
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When Benanti enters the drawing room in her ball gown she is regal, ready and confident. There is absolutely no surprise in her loveliness.


When Ambrose enters the drawing room she is striving to be regal, ready and confident but her vulnerability was palpable and your heart leapt at how lovely she looked.
 

Exquisite comparison of the two stars in the role.

I haven't read anything of this quality from any of the pros yet.


 

 

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Benanti has extended until JULY 7TH!! Did not expect her to extend that much - incredible news!

Press Release

"Oh look at the time, three more intelligent plays just closed and THE ADDAMS FAMILY made another million dollars" -Jackie Hoffman, Broadway.com Audience Awards
Updated On: 2/11/19 at 12:03 PM
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When Benanti enters the drawing room in her ball gown she is regal, ready and confident. There is absolutely no surprise in her loveliness.


When Ambrose enters the drawing room she is striving to be regal, ready and confident but her vulnerability was palpable and your heart leapt at how lovely she looked.


Exquisite comparison of the two stars in the role.

I haven't read anything of this quality from any of the pros yet.

***************************

Perfect. Just perfect.
"Two drifters off to see the world. There's such a lot of world to see. . ."
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Iím sure itís been discussed in this thread but can you return your ticket for a refund if Laura is out? I know sheís not above the title but wonder if exceptions are made. I might make a return trip for her in the Summer but would only be going for her as I wasnít the hugest fan of the show.
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I'm so glad Laura extended because I've been wanting to go back and see her again. She's a true delight in the show and her voice is a dream. 

Updated On: 2/11/19 at 12:31 PM
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LesWickedly said: "I’m sure it’s been discussed in this thread but can you return your ticket for a refund if Laura is out? I know she’s not above the title but wonder if exceptions are made. I might make a return trip for her in the Summer but would only be going for her as I wasn’t the hugest fan of the show. "

If you have your heart set on seeing Benanti I’d call the box office and see what they can do for you.

Otherwise, you’d be in excellent hands with Kerstin Anderson who’s absolutely incredible in the role. 

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Truly nothing against Kerstin, just didnít enjoy the show much the first time but would see it again solely for Laura.
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Impressed that these dates have already been put out:

† Laura Benanti WILL perform on the following Tuesdays:
- Tuesday - March 5
- Tuesday - March 19
- Tuesday - April 23
- Tuesday - June 4

Laura Benanti will not perform:
- Saturday - March 9
- Sunday - March 10
- Sunday - March 24 - Thursday - March 28
- Saturday - April 27 - Sunday - April 28
- Wednesday evening - June 5
- Friday - June 28 - Sunday - June 30
- Saturday - July 6

Harry Hadden-Paton will not perform on Sunday - July 7.

 

Updated On: 2/11/19 at 03:08 PM
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so the last performance for Harry Hadden-Paton and Laura Benanti together is Friday, July 5

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Sounds like getting those dates off was a condition of her contract extension as she probably had those dates scheduled before she extended.

Glad that more fans of Laura will have the opportunity to see her. I wonder what will happen after July 7 but for now I'm happy Laura is sticking around. Maybe she will even extend again.


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