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BWW Reviews: Broadway Rose Finds All the Charm in MY FAIR LADY

The late Lehman Engel was a conductor for a number of Broadway shows in the 1940s through the 1960s, in addition to writing several masterful books on the creation and construction of musicals, and founding the musical theater workshop that bears his name and has trained many of the top songwriters and librettists of the past thirty years. He invented the term "charm song," referring to a song that isn't a true comedy song or a ballad, but is intended to make the audience smile and like the character singing it. The gold standard for charm songs is My Fair Lady - practically the whole show is charm songs like "The Rain in Spain," "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," and and "You Did It." The only overt love song is handed to a minor character, and the story is resolved via dialogue rather than a big final number. And it's just a great show.

I'd never seen My Fair Lady live before. Of course I knew the music; anyone who's been anywhere near a musical has to know the score of My Fair Lady. What I hadn't realized is how much fun the show is. Was Shaw's Pygmalion this funny? Broadway Rose's cast finds every laugh in the text and director Sharon Maroney has found a wealth of sight bits and other small laughs that keep you smiling throughout the show. It's utterly charming and you won't stop smiling from beginning to end.

Kevin Connell is a delightful Higgins, egotistical and self-aggrandizing, with the precise diction and elegant comic timing necessary for the role. He struggled a little with the songs, wanting to sing more and talk less than is traditional for a Higgins, and he probably has a terrific voice, but Higgins in My Fair Lady is not written for a singer. But he moves and handles himself well, and he's funniest when he's angry, just as a great Higgins should be.

Jazmin Gorsline is a lovely Eliza, with a beautiful voice and the ability to look wonderful in period costumes (something often lacking in young actors). She handles the musical and vocal demands of the role with seeming ease, making Eliza's transition from guttersnipe to lady quite convincing. She's more at home with the character's ladylike side, but she makes a game effort at the rowdier side as well. And when she's called upon to challenge Higgins in the final scenes, she's up for it.

The supporting cast is uniformly excellent, with the ensemble seemingly able to change costumes, characters, and accents in a matter of seconds. Darius Pierce is a delightfully pompous but warmhearted Pickering, making me smile every time he set foot on stage and holding his own opposite the leads. Paige Jones was a lovely Mrs. Pearce, and Pat Lach brought out all the dignity and intelligence in Mrs. Higgins. Dan Murphy worked very hard as Mr. Doolittle, but I was never convinced that he was the lazy drunk the script calls for; he seemed too clever and dignified. And I worried for his health in the dance numbers; Doolittle's two big songs have a lot of dancing attached, and Mr. Murphy looked like he was seriously out of breath in both.

Director Maroney put together a terrific group and kept the big production moving at a great pace. The set was marvelous, moving from scene to scene smoothly and quickly without stage waits, and every scene looked right. The costumes were perfect, eye-popping when necessary (the Ascot races and the embassy ball) but appropriate throughout. The orchestra was accomplished, though the arrangements were utterly dominated by the clarinets; was this a failure of the orchestrator or the sound system?

There are a lot of laughs in My Fair Lady, and some intelligent thoughts about the whole male-female thing, and a lot of great songs performed by gifted people. There is an abundance of charm, at least the way Broadway Rose has put it on stage, and that's the best thing about it. Go see it.

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From This Author Patrick Brassell

Patrick Brassell is the author of five published novels and five produced plays. He has directed, produced, and designed sound for about fifty theater productions, (read more...)