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BWW Review: We Could Have Danced All Night at MTW's MY FAIR LADY

My Fair Lady/book & lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner; music by Frederick Loewe/directed & choreographed by Daniel Pelzig/musical direction by Julie Lamoureux/MTW (Musical Theatre West), Long Beach/through November 8

Called by many the perfect musical, My Fair Lady based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion has perhaps the wittiest and showiest debate between the sexes. Shaw despised marriage and loved to magnify human frailty, both female and male. And with Lerner and Loewe to create the book, music and lyrics, the result is a creation with music and story that flow together in ideal harmony. Even when it's at its abrasive best, it's funny; even when Professor Henry Higgins (Martin Kildare) is obnoxious, selfish and self-centered to the hilt, we cannot help but laugh with him...and love him. Despite what a man says about a woman, he cannot live without her, and vice versa. We were born to live in a love/hate relationship, to be at each other's throats and in the next second, rolling around in the hay. It's all a part of life and Shaw, and Lerner and Loewe displayed the ups and downs of romantic living better than anyone else...period. Now in an absolutely loverly production at MTW, Long Beach, the show plays through November 8 only.

In musical theatre one longs for beautiful music, fine dancing, of course a story that will engage and titillate, a love story or two at the core, and a cast and director who will pull it off with panache. As in the case of My Fair Lady, other musts are sets and costumes. For those of you who remember, the 1965 film with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn was ultra elegant, and so any theatrical production must try to live up to the original if at all possible. Within regional theatre limitations... it is all workable and finely displayed. MTW has an outstanding reputation for mounting great productions, and this My Fair Lady, their fourth time doing it over a 60-year period, ranks right up there as one of the best that I have ever seen there.

It's all in the right casting, and Kildare plays Higgins quite brilliantly. He's a Shakesperean actor, so the English language does indeed come trippingly off his tongue...and he plays Higgins right on the edge. He's an egocentric who hates defeat and emotion of any kind, but we can feel the changes seething within him. A wonderful performance! Katharine McDonough is one of the best Eliza Doolittles to date; she has a magnificent voice, a true cultured soprano. Her change from frump to elegant lady comes off flawlessly, as emotions seem to flow from her quite naturally. Brilliant work! Matthew Henerson is delightful as Alfred P. Doolittle, Eliza's father. With a combination of spunk and cunning charm, he manages to get what he wants...or does he? Again Shaw turns a deaf ear to marriage: in "Get Me to the Church On Time" Doolittle is reluctant to settle down, and Henerson brings that into clear focus. Richard Gould steals the hour as the affable Colonel Pickering. With his razor sharp facial expressions and colorful reactions, he makes the character a real standout. It is always lovely to see Mary Gordon Murray onstage. Her Mrs. Higgins is stern, but never overly so, and she sure knows how to get a laugh. Eric Michael Parker is a great choice for Freddy, as he really brings out the simplicity of his nature. Another stellar voice! Debra Cardona has the role of the wonderfully supportive Mrs. Pearce. She really makes the most of the small role. Others in the ensemble add color and presence executing director/choreographer Daniel Pelzig's even pacing and energetic choreography.

The "Ascot Gavotte" at the end of Act I has the perfect tone and style of snobbish upper crust society. Costumes by Karen St. Pierre are divine, especially Eliza's gowns.

There are no finer tunes than "I Could Have Danced All Night", "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face", "With a Little Bit of Luck", "On the Street Where You Live" and "Get Me to the Church On Time". Lerner and Loewe's music is brilliantly character-driven, like the story, and really comes to fiery life with "Why Can't the English?", "Just You Wait", "Hymn to Him" and "Without You". Musical director Julie Lamoureux and her orchestra really do shine! This production of My Fair Lady is scrumptious. Don't miss it!

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From This Author Don Grigware