BWW Review: Broad Hollow's Production of MY FAIR LADY
Broad Hollow Theater Company begins its 2018 Spring season with the classic Lerner & Lowe's My Fair Lady which continues its run through January 28 at Baywway Arts Center in East Islip, NY and then transfers for a run at the Broad Hollow at Elmont Theater from February 3 - March 4.
Based on the classic George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion, My Fair Lady tells the story of cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, who is scooped up off the streets of London and transformed into an elegant woman by world renowned phoneticist Professor Henry Higgins. My Fair Lady is scheduled to return to the Broadway stage March 15 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater starring Six Feet Under's Lauren Ambrose as Eliza and Downton Abbey's Harry Hadden-Paton as Higgins. I was excited to see this production at Bayway Arts Center and I wish I could say the production was "loverly", but sadly their were some missteps.
Let's begin with the sound. For this production, recorded tracks were used in place of an orchestra. There is no flaw with this as it is highly common for community theaters to use tracks for economic reasons. Having said that, the music in the theater needed to be much louder. I also think it would be beneficial to incorporate the score's beautiful overture and entr'acte. Even if it is just a recording, these pieces of music are essential transitional pieces that prepare the audience for their musical journey. A conductor would also be beneficial to cue some of the actors in; this was evidenced with the production's version of "You Did It", a difficult Lerner & Loewe piece. Lastly, the sound in the theater itself was very muffled; it sounded like the actors were being held under water. The sound was also geared more towards the front of the theater. Audience members seated in the rear orchestra were straining to hear. The theater should add some speakers toward the back of the house which would give the theater more of a surround sound.
The production featured a minimalistic set that featured 5 arches, echoing the play's Edwardian architecture, placed in front of a cerulean blue lit backdrop which gave the appearance of giant stained glass windows. It was a perfect set for scenes set outdoors, but was wrong for scenes set indoors (i.e. Higgins home). The "Ascot Gavotte" scene featured many flaws including: the lack of horses racing sound effects, the lack of an umbrella to complete Eliza's ensemble, and Professor Higgins calling his mother "Darling" multiple times. These are easy changes that can be made to make this scene great.
Erin Bonura had the daunting task of taking the iconic role of Eliza Doolittle, a role that is synonymous with Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn/Marni Nixon. Bonura gave a lovely performance. Her performance of "I Could Have Danced All Night" was wonderful. The only thing Bonura needs to work on is singing in the Cockney accent. When it came to singing songs like "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" and "Just You Wait", Bonura sang them more operatically. The use of the cockney language is essential for these songs because it contributes to Eliza's transition. Joe Morris gave a true tour-de-force performance as Henry Higgins; he was phenomenal. The biggest surprise of the night was having the honor of seeing Sheila Sheffield grace the stage as Higgins's housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce. I had the honor of seeing Ms. Sheffield give a stunning performance in Night, Mother at The Studio Theater in Long Island last year. Harrison Ford once said on Inside the Actor's Studio, "In my working life (as an actor), I expect to grant my audience complete and total access; everyone has a backstage pass. [In order to be a great actor], you have to live in front of people...live in front of people. Let them see the good, the bad, the strong, the conflicted, the terrible." Folks, Sheila Sheffield LIVES!!!
To purchase tickets to see My Fair Lady, please visit https://www.broadhollow.org .