BWW Review: Just a Fair MY FAIR LADY

BWW Review: Just a Fair MY FAIR LADY
Photo: Todd Rosenberg

As productions go, the Lyric Opera of Chicago's MY FAIR LADY lives up to its name. That is to sadly say it is merely fair, not good.

Part of the opera company's popular "Broadway at the Lyric" series, the production plays it far too safe. It offers no new insight for contemporary audiences. One could argue that the company is treating the Broadway musical as an opera and is presenting it in an historic context, but that would discount some of the risks the Lyric routinely takes when it presents opera. "Pulch

Yes, it is great to hear Frederick Loewe's score performed by a full orchestra and you certainly can't fault the casts' diction -every work of Alan Jay Lerner's witty lyrics can be heard. The production simply cannot overcome what has traditionally been the show's greatest fault: why the cockney flower girl turned high society dame (the charming and enchanting Lisa O'Hare as Eliza Doolittle) would forgo the love and adoration of Freddy (a likeable Bryce Pinkham) for the abrasive/abusive Henry Higgins (Richard E. Grant).

Grant doesn't get any help from Pinkham, here. Pinkham's soaring performance of the classic ballad "On the Street Where You Live" will have even the most devotEd Higgins supporter firmly in Team Freddy camp before the tenor has song his last note in the song.

We never get the sense from Grant that his Higgins cares for Eliza beyond winning the bet to make her over into a proper English lady. Higgins should come to realize his love and grow up a little, but Grant's performance of "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" comes up a bit short -a boy longingly pining for a toy that someone else is now showing an interest.

The final scene is meant to convey that Eliza has returned on her own terms (and very much in control of the household staff if not Higgins), but you may find yourself wondering just what drove her back to him.

Lynne Page's choreography makes great use of the large cast particularly in the "Ascot Gavotte" and in the raucous and crowd-pleasing "Get Me to the Church on Time." The costumes by Anthony Powell are magnificent (though, I must confess I preferred Eliza's Ascot outfit to her embassy ball gown).

The grand sets by Tim Hatley present a bit of a problem for revival director Olivier Fredj. Fredj couldn't figure out an organic way to move set pieces on and off and frequently requires performers to step off the set and in front of a lowering flat with the words "Mea pulchra uelle" written on it (Latin for "my beautiful girl;"Mea pulchra domina" would actually be a more accurate translation of "my fair lady," but I digress). Often times, this is a third and final verse of a song performed in front of a rather flat backdrop. All context, emotion and setting are removed because both character and audience have been taken out of the moment. It just doesn't work.

MY FAIR LADY runs through May 21 at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker. Tickets $22-$199. 312.827.5600.

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From This Author Misha Davenport

Misha Davenport Misha Davenport is the chief critic for Broadway World Chicago. A Chicago-based freelance writer, blogger, critic and singer. He studied playwriting at Michigan State University (read more...)

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