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Review: MY FAIR LADY Brings the Best and Finest of Broadway to Houston

MY FAIR LADY Is a Delightful Welcome Back to the Theatre

Review: MY FAIR LADY Brings the Best and Finest of Broadway to Houston

Last night I sat in a theatre for the first time in 557 days. I'm positive I wasn't the only one holding a track record of that caliber, because the excitement in the Hobby Center was tangible. Theatre is back indeed. And what better way to welcome you than the visually stunning, classic tale of Professor Higgins and his pupil Eliza Doolittle. MY FAIR LADY (1956) is as golden as it gets, the prime example of Broadway at its best and finest.


Lerner and Loewe's MY FAIR LADY is a playful reminder of the power that words can hold. The story begins with Miss Eliza Doolittle (Shereen Ahmed) as a Cockney flower girl on the streets of London. After observing her less-than-ladylike speech, Professor and phonetician Henry Higgins (Laird Mackintosh) declares that he could transform her into a lady--starting with her words. Colonel Pickering (Kevin Pariseau) bets that Higgins cannot do it within 6 months, and the race to transformation is on! Who doesn't love a Cinderella story?

Review: MY FAIR LADY Brings the Best and Finest of Broadway to Houston
Photo by Joan Marcus.

As the orchestra began to play their first few notes and proceeded into the overture, I admit I shed a tear or two. The anticipation in the audience was palpable. The sound of applause was familiar. From the time the orchestra started playing until the curtain fell, it was delight after delight.

Mackintosh plays the scientific, calculated, and blunt Professor Higgins with both vigor and humor. Ahmed is beyond lovely as Eliza Doolittle, and more than pulls off the transformation from street girl slang to elegant spoken word. Mastering that dialect alone is a feat in and of itself. Ahmed and Mackintosh are the perfect diametrically opposed pair, rounded out as a trio with Pariseau as Colonel Pickering in numbers like "The Rain in Spain."

MY FAIR LADY holds too many treasured songs to count. "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" and the "Loverly" Quartet was nothing short of angelic, and the harmonies were to die for. It was the first of many indulgences in the classic, plucky style of 1950's golden-age musical theatre. There is something so distinct about the language and music of theatre from that decade. Those that say, "They just don't make 'em like they used to" are right. Exhibit B: "I Could Have Danced All Night and "On the Street Where You Live".

Review: MY FAIR LADY Brings the Best and Finest of Broadway to Houston
Photo by Joan Marcus.

MY FAIR LADY has its fair share of comedy as well, especially thanks to Adam Grupper as "Alfie" Doolittle, Eliza's father who enjoys his lot in life as a member of the lower class and frequenter of the pub. "Get Me to the Church on Time" was a rollicking good time, showcasing the all star ensemble in a hilariously playful number. Gayton Scott added to the laughter of the night, offering every inch of dry wit you could hope for as Higgins' housekeeper Mrs. Pearce.

In terms of design, this production is an aesthetic dream. Catherine Zuber's costumes were gorgeously designed. I most enjoyed the creamy, draping numbers worn by the well-to-do characters attending the horse race. (Just for the record--the moment where the horses race by in utter silence was a directorial masterpiece in and of itself. Hats off to the director, Bartlett Sher, for that genius moment alongside many others.)

The real star of the costume show is Eliza's dress for the Embassy Ball, but I would be foolish to even try to find an adjective to match the beauty of her gown. You'll have to see for yourself in person. (And if you need someone to take that lil' number off your hands when the tour wraps up...you know who to call.)

Review: MY FAIR LADY Brings the Best and Finest of Broadway to Houston
Photo by Joan Marcus.

Donald Holder's ethereal lighting design and Marc Salzberg's sound design added layer upon layer to the experience. As we entered the ballroom of the embassy, the rich blue and purple hues seemed to jump off the stage.

One of the stars of the show was Michael Yeargan's creation of Professor Higgins' house. This massive--and I mean MASSIVE--two story Edwardian structure not only looked like it was plucked straight off the streets in London, but was able to rotate to show several different "rooms" throughout the house. The detail was impeccable, and it was a marvel to watch in action.

As Professor Higgins began teaching Eliza with countless lessons, the house spinned as if it was a ticking clock counting away the days they spent practicing. That moment will go down in my book as one of those theatre moments that perfectly united actors, set, sound, and movement.

Christopher Gattelli's choreography made everything come to life in a show where the movement often spoke for itself in place of words. Take the scene at the ballroom, where the exchange of silent suitors dancing with Eliza told a story all its own.

I couldn't think of a better show to bring us back together in the theatre. It's entertaining, appealing, and everything you could ever want in a musical. Come. Clap. Cry. Be a part of it all.

Lincoln Center Theater's MY FAIR LADY runs through September 19th at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby St. Tickets start at just $35. For tickets or more information, call 713-315-2525 or visit thehobbycenter.org or broadwayatthehobbycenter.com.



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