Review: MY FAIR LADY at Des Moines Performing Arts

The Loverly Classic finally makes its way to Des Moines through August 7.

By: Aug. 07, 2022
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Review: MY FAIR LADY at Des Moines Performing Arts

In March 2020, just a few weeks before "My Fair Lady" was supposed to play at Des Moines Performing Arts, the Covid 19 pandemic hit Iowa, causing the Des Moines leg of the tour to be postponed. After an almost two-and-a-half-year delay, the show has finally made its way to the Civic Center Stage. After attending opening night on August 2, I can only say this "loverly" production has been well worth the wait.

"My Fair Lady" tells the classic story of Eliza Doolittle, who dreams of a better life. When she meets Henry Higgins on the streets of London, she decides to take lessons with him to become a better speaker and raise her class status. Once she has completed her lessons, she is faced with a question. What now? It didn't seem right to go back to her life, but how does she start over in life again?

One of the things I appreciated about the show was the direction of Bartlett Sher. He does a fantastic job of telling a classic story but tells it through a modern lens. He does this by putting the character of Eliza and her story at the forefront, as though it is being told through her eyes. This beautifully ties in with the gorgeous Tony Nominates sets by Michael Yeargan and the dazzling costumes by Catherine Zuber. If Des Moines Performing Arts season ticket holders love how this team works together, as I do, then they are in for a treat, as this is the team behind the upcoming tour stop of "Fiddler on the Roof."

One of my favorite parts of Yeargan's set was Higgins House. I loved watching the massive set role forward and later in the show, start slowly spinning around as the cast went to different sections of the house. The costumes from Tony winner Catherine Zuber at times, were stunning. One of the most stunning costumes of the night had to be the costume Eliza wears to the ball. It deservedly gets its moment in the light at the end of Act 1 when Eliza enters to head to the ball.

While all the different production elements work together beautifully, it wouldn't be a show without a fantastic group of actors to bring the story to life. Shereen Ahmed leads this cast as Eliza Doolittle, along with Laird Mackintosh as Professor Higgins. Plucked right from the cast of the Broadway production, Shereen Ahmed's performance of Eliza Doolittle is everything you can expect. Having been the Eliza understudy, she has had time to develop her Eliza into something special for this tour. Her Eliza is one who is taking control of her circumstances in life. Her portrayal, along with the direction, gives Eliza an ending in the show that is far more fitting for a modern telling of this show.

Laird Mackintosh is returning to the Civic Center stage after last being seen in Disney's Mary Poppins: The Musical. He does a fantastic job of finding how far you can push the character without the audience turning on him. This plays well towards the show's end when he gives us his beautiful rendition of "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face."

The show also consisted of a large and highly talented cast. Some of my favorites included Martin Fisher's jolly take on Alfred P Doolittle and Leslie Alexander's spunky take on Mrs. Higgins, both delivering some of the most comedic moments of the show. The evening I attended, we had two understudies. Wade McCollum brought a comedic take on Professor Zoltan Karpathy and Paul Slade Smith as Jamie, one of the comedic companions of Alfred P Doolittle.

Whether it's your first time seeing "My Fair Lady" or if you are returning to see it again, this production will leave you speechless. Each part of the show, from the costumes and set, to the direction and acting, all work together to make for a beautiful evening. This show is only here for a limited time through August 7, so make sure you get yourself to the Civic Center on time. For more information, visit