BWW Review: MY FAIR LADY National Tour Opens at The Landmark Theatre
This week the new national tour of The Lincoln Center Theater Production of My Fair Lady opened at Syracuse's Landmark Theatre and it is a moving, powerful, and beautiful production under the superb direction of Bartlett Sher. It is in fact the classic My Fair Lady you are probably used to seeing but it does offer a fresh take on the classic musical in this new and breathtaking production.
The musical features book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The musical is adapted from George Bernard Shaw's play and Gabriel Pascal's motion picture Pygmalion. Many are also familiar with the 1964 film starring Audrey Hepburn as Eliza and Rex Harrison as Professor Higgins. Harrison originated the role on Broadway opposite a very young Julie Andrews. The intricate costumes, the memorable and moving music, and those iconic characters make this musical one of the most treasured in musical theatre history.
The plot of course centers on a London Professor named Henry Higgins (Laird Mackintosh) that insists and bets that he can turn an ordinary flower girl into a woman who could pass as a member of the high society. Higgins believes that if this cockney-speaking flower girl named Eliza Doolittle (Shereen Ahmed) learns to speak and behave properly, she will have no problem passing off as an aristocratic woman. Higgins and Eliza's personalities go head to head during the speech lessons as they often clash. The two unlikely pair end up forming a very surprising bond. Will personality or another person get in the way of that bond?
Not only is the story and music truly powerful but, this new tour offers some of the most breathtaking sets, costumes, and lighting that has graced the stage in the historical Landmark Theatre. Michael Yeargan's sets are absolutely stunning, especially when the audience first sees Professor Higgins' home. Higgins' two story home with multiple rooms is situated on a turn table allowing for effortless and flawless scene changes. Donald Holder's lighting enhances every detail of the set and the powerful story, the result is stunning. Catherine Zuber's costumes are enchanting especially during "The Embassy Waltz" where many of the female ensemble members are decked out in majestic jewel toned costumes featuring satin and velvet. However, it is Eliza's dress that she wears to the Embassy ball that takes your breath away. The artistic elements of this production are unique and powerful.
The classic musical numbers come to life under the music direction of John Bell as he leads the seventeen piece My Fair Lady orchestra made up of three touring and fourteen local musicians. The sound and power coming out of the orchestra pit is magical. The minute the "Overture" begins chills and excitement spread through the audience. Those iconic songs such as "I Could Have Danced All Night," "On the Street Where You Live," "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," and so many more were nothing but stunning.
The entire ensemble delivers knockout performances from the vocals, to the line delivery, to the choreography it is spot on mesmerizing. The powerful chemistry amongst the cast made the production spellbinding. Having seen many tours open in Syracuse there is something special about this one where the entire ensemble had such delightful excitement to be in those roles and it translates beautifully on stage. Ensemble numbers such as "Get Me to the Church on Time" featuring fresh and creative choreography and costuming and "Ascot Gavotte" featuring ornate hat designs by costumer Catherine Zuber are definite highlights of the production. "Wouldn't it be Loverly" allows for some stellar ensemble vocals to shine especially for the "loverly" quartet featuring Mark Aldrich, Colin Anderson, Shavey Brown, and William Michals.
Shereen Ahmed takes on the iconic role of Eliza Doolittle and she does not disappoint with her effortless soprano in "I Could Have Danced All Night," her feisty performance of "Just You Wait," and charm in "The Rain in Spain." Ahmed's performance stuns from start to finish as she captures the cockney-speaking flower seller to the refined woman at the Embassy ball passing off as royalty. Her stage presence, powerful portrayal, and exquisite vocals make her ideal for the role.
Laird Mackintosh portrays that quick tongued, opinionated, and brilliant Professor Henry Higgins in his energetic performance. The role still uses the speak-sing approach that many are familiar with for the Higgins musical numbers. Mackintosh's performance is confident, comedic, and memorable. "Why Can't the English?" is a delightful performance for Mackintosh. He entertains in "You Did It" alongside Kevin Pariseau as Colonel Pickering. It is his performance of "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" that steals the spotlight. Mackinstosh embodies the role perfectly.
Kevin Pariseau's performance as Colonel Pickering is a highlight with his charming line delivery and onstage chemistry with is castmates. Sam Simahk as Freddy-Eynsford-Hill delivers a powerful rendition of "On the Street Where You Live" as he lights up the stage with his effortless vocals. Adam Grupper takes on the comedic role of Alfred P. Doolittle and his performance is a highlight especially in "With a Little Bit of Luck" alongside Patrick Kerr as Harry and William Michals as Jamie. "Get to the Church on Time" does not hold back, is fresh, hilarious, and a highlight of the show as Grupper shows off his bouncy personality alongside the ensemble.
Other standouts include Gayton Scott as Mrs. Pearce, Leslie Alexander as Mrs. Higgins, and Wade McCollum as Professor Zoltan Karpathy.
The new touring production of My Fair Lady is truly a standout and beautiful production that opened in Syracuse, New York at the Landmark Theatre as part of the Famous Artists Broadway Theater Series: Broadway in Syracuse. If you are lucky enough to have it come to a city near you, do not miss your chance to see the standout cast and breathtaking designs. The production is a "loverly" delight for the eyes and ears.
Running time: Approximately three hours with one fifteen-minute intermission.
My Fair Lady runs through December 13, 2019 at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse, New York as part of The Famous Artists Broadway Theater Series Broadway in Syracuse. For tickets and information on the new tour of My Fair Lady click here. For tickets and information on The Famous Artists Broadway Theater Series: Broadway in Syracuse click here.