BWW Review: MY FAIR LADY at South Bend Civic Theatre

BWW Review: MY FAIR LADY at South Bend Civic Theatre

There are shows that I believe get rave reviews, awards, and heralded as classics because, at some point, "true theatre people" aren't allowed to not like them. If you bring up Oklahoma, Hello, Dolly, or The Sound of Music, and don't fawn over it for hours, you are expected to turn in your theatre card and walk away from all conversations thereafter. My Fair Lady, as a musical, falls into this category for me.

In brief, Henry Higgins (Ted Manier) runs into Eliza Doolittle (Natalie MacRae-Waggoner) while outside of an opera. He is taking notes on accents and while doing so, runs into Colonel Pickering (Philip Stout), a gentleman who was coming to see Higgins by coincidence. Higgins makes a boast about being able to turn a cockney street seller into a person who could pass for high society and Pickering eventually takes him up on it using Doolittle as the subject.

Nobody in the audience is surprised when Doolittle works at it and succeeds to pass herself off, not only as high society, but as royalty, at a Ball be given. Doolittle does have one minor mishap during a high society gathering at the races where Mrs. Higgins (Mary Ann Moran) is shocked by Doolittle's slip into cockney and topics of discussion, but Freddy (Justin Green) finds this all to be delightful. Incidentally, at the beginning of the show, Freddy bumps into Eliza, ruins her flowers, and this, for reasons that I am sure made sense in 1956, is enough for Eliza to fall for him as he stalks her outside Higgins' home and they get engaged after Eliza has a fight with Higgins.BWW Review: MY FAIR LADY at South Bend Civic Theatre

My Fair Lady has a number of good lines, bits, and chuckles, such as "A Hymn to Him" in which Henry Higgins complains that when he is disrespectful to a man, he doesn't get upset, but a woman will, but it's humorous now because we see the ridiculousness of Higgins' statements. That does seem to be the whole show, though. Modern audiences laugh at the pure shock value of the way Doolittle is treated and how Higgins' takes credit for her work and older audiences laugh, because they always have.

David Case is a very good director and this show does nothing to sully that image, but the show itself seems unremarkable to me. The big numbers seemed either crowded or unenergetic at times and the solo numbers like "I Could Have Danced All Night", "On the Street Where You Live" and "Why Can't the English?" seemed to go on forever even though all three of these songs have very strong voices behind them.

It's not for a lack of talent that I didn't think the show captivated me. There were side characters that I enjoyed very much. Philip Stout as Pickering and Mary Ann Moran as Mrs. Higgins were a delight to watch work and Derek Bacon's ridiculous Hungarian was a fun comic foil for an otherwise unremarkable scene.

All this being said, there is still an audience for "My Fair Lady", as proved by the mostly full auditorium on a Thursday night, but the age did skew older. One wonders what could be done to draw younger people to appreciate the classics more or if there are updated shows that deal with similar topics and themes that could be done in their place. Something familiar for the older audience, but catching to the eye of the younger audiences.

I came to the conclusion that a 3 hour musical that could have been a 90 minute farce is just not my cup of tea at all. Which is a shame, since there are so many talented people that popped out to me. Grace Thomas was a member of the ensemble that rose to the top in every number and scene she got to sing, dance, and speak in. Dawn Hagerty, who always goes above and beyond in her roles in the best way, was BWW Review: MY FAIR LADY at South Bend Civic Theatrewonderful as Mrs. Pearce and had some great moments in "Hymn to Him" that made us genuinely fear for Higgins' life, and both dance captains (Tyler Marcotte and Lincoln Wright) proved why they dance captains throughout the show.

"My Fair Lady" is a show worth seeing to support your fellow actors or to, at the very least, say you've seen the show and form your own opinion. I may not have cared for the show, but I enjoyed the performance a good deal.

"My Fair Lady" continues its run at the "South Bend Civic Theatre" through July 19. Tickets are available on the web at sbct.org or for information by telephone at (574) 234-1112

photo credit: South Bend Civic Theatre



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