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BWW Review: MY FAIR LADY at Orpheum Theatre

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Bartlett Sher's production is a beautiful looking opportunity to experience one of musical theatre's greatest chestnuts.

BWW Review: MY FAIR LADY at Orpheum Theatre

My Fair Lady

Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner

Music by Frederick Loewe

Directed by Bartlett Sher

Orpheum Theatre

There's a brief appearance by a group of protest sign carrying suffragettes during a street scene in this Lincoln Center 2018 revival of Lerner and Loewe's classic musical My Fair Lady, and it may be the only bridge between this distinctly old-fashioned early 20th century Edwardian perspective and today's post-feminist world. This revival, nominated for 10 Tony Awards and directed by award winning director Bartlett Sher is a beautiful looking opportunity to experience one of musical theatre's greatest chestnuts.

BWW Review: MY FAIR LADY at Orpheum Theatre
Laird Mackintosh as Professor Henry Higgins and Shereen Ahmed as Eliza Doolittle

Based on George Bernard Shaw's popular 1913 play Pygmalion and a later film of the same name, My Fair Lady was a smash success in 1956 winning 6 Tony's including Best Musical and converted to a 1964 film which would go on to win 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor and a Best Director award to George Cukor. With a pedigree like that, My Fair Lady is a crowd pleaser for generations to come, and this production delivers in spades - superb singing (entire ensemble), orchestrations (Tour Orchestrations are by Josh Clayton and music direction is by John Bell), costumes by Catherine Zuber, Donald Zuber's lighting, choreography by Trude Rittmann and sets by Michael Yeargan. Bartlett Sher puts it all together with excellent staging and casting.

BWW Review: MY FAIR LADY at Orpheum Theatre
Shavey Brown, Mark Aldrich, Shereen Ahmed (center), William Michals and Colin Anderson

Laird MacIntosh (Phantom of the Opera, Jekyll & Hyde, Mary Poppins) stars as the cantankerous and snooty phonetics expert Henry Higgins who makes a wager with friend Colonel Pickering (Kevin Pariseau) that he can turn a lowly flower girl into a Duchess. Relative newcomer Shereen Ahmed stars as Eliza Doolittle, a simple flower seller with a cockney accent who wishes to move up in society and accepts to be Higgin's student. Shaw's story of class division and social mobility needed a romantic angle the provides added tension to the story. There's plenty of wonderful supporting performances here; Adam Grupper as Alfred Doolittle, Kevin Pariseau as Colonel Pickering and Sam Simahk as Freddy Eynsford-Hill.

BWW Review: MY FAIR LADY at Orpheum Theatre
(center, seated) Adam Grupper as Alfred P. Doolittle and Company

My Fair Lady's first act is sensational with musical numbers known worldwide like Eliza's dreaming of a better life in "Wouldn't It Be Loverly", Eliza's father Alfred's "With a Little Bit a Luck", "The Rain in Spain" and the beautiful "I Could Have Danced All Night" and "On the Street Where You Live". Professor Higgins seems like an anachronistic troglodyte with his numbers "I'm an Ordinary Man", where he describes how women ruin lives and the bizarre "A Hymn to Him (Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?)" - performed by Higgins and Pickering. The redeeming feature is of course Eliza's transformation not to Duchess, but as a strong, competent woman.

BWW Review: MY FAIR LADY at Orpheum Theatre
Laird Mackintosh as Professor Henry Higgins, Gayton Scott as Mrs. Pearce, Adam Grupper as Alfred P. Doolittle, Kevin Pariseau as Colonel Pickering and Shereen Ahmed as Eliza Doolittle

The second act is less strong, as it bogs down in the romantic exasperations but includes the stunning musical number "Get Me to the Church on Time" (Alfred Doolittle and company), the wistful "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" (Higgins) and one of my all-time favorite show tunes "Show Me" (Eliza). This is the 'not-happy ending' version, and it makes contemporary sense given Higgins rigidity and failure to change. Feminists and their advocates will shout hurrah.

My Fair Lady runs through November 28th, 2021. Tickets available through broadwaysf.com or by phone at 888-746-1799.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus


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