BWW Review: MY FAIR LADY at Kennedy Center
Lincoln Center's highly acclaimed production of My Fair Lady directed by Bartlett Sher is now on tour and has officially opened at the Kennedy Center. It features many Broadway cast members, as well as some new talent.
My Fair Lady tells the classic tale of Eliza Doolittle, poor flower girl on the streets in London where she meets haughty phonetics professor Henry Higgins, who pledges to train her into a member of society.
Shereen Ahmad has already had her turn as Eliza Doolittle, understudying the character on Broadway no less. However, she approached Eliza with an amazing youthful vibrancy that lit up the character all throughout Act 1 and had everyone laughing each time she sneered. However, in Act 2 she played Eliza with a little more ire than I thought necessary. What makes Eliza such an amazing character comes from her ability to take slightly misogynistic Higgins and his prodding in stride with a quick quip or disdainful snicker. But in this production, it seemed that Eliza was played to be progressively more irritated throughout the second act, which I wasn't expecting. The scenes following her outburst I find generally amusing, the qupis between the two and Eliza purposely keeping Higgins at bay, but I found such scenes a little uncomfortable, like I was watching a couple argue. With that said, she performed very well and she has a lovely ringing soprano voice, I just wasn't enthralled with the direction of her character.
She is doubled by Laird Mackintosh as Henry Higgins, another accomplished Broadway veteran. Mackintosh's performance as Higgins was sharp and perfectly-timed. Mackintosh has an amazing sense of what he is saying and for the character to be humorous and not entirely awful this is a must. His razor sharp attention to detail is what made his performance so successful, making Higgins funny and blissfully unaware, rather than mean-spirited. His performance of "I'm an Ordinary Man" was a big hit with the audience, as well as myself.
Another major highlight for me was the performance of Adam Grupper as Alfred Doolittle, Eliza's drunkard father. His comedic timing was fantastic and received uproarious laughter any time he took to the stage. His rendition of "Get Me to the Church on Time" was the best I've ever seen and was followed by rounds of applause. His performance for me was the best in the production.
Leslie Alexander as Mrs. Higgins, the professor's mother, was also a high point for me throughout the show. Alexander created an amazing arc throughout the show with her character, as she grew fonder and fonder of Eliza and it was very touching. I found her jests to her son wildly funny as she also irritated at his treatment of Eliza throughout the second act. She perfectly embodied the character.
In a similar fashion, I was touched by Kevin Pariseau's performance of Colonel Pickering, a colleague of the professor. Pariseau's performance was sweet as he created a sweet paternal relationship to Eliza when Higgin's lacked empathy. He was equally funny in "You Did It" with Laird Mackintosh which had the audience rolling.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance. I loved seeing such a beloved golden-age hit restaged and touring around the country. However, I thought that some of the direction by Sher might be confusing and not achieve its desired effect. All in all, the cast all had some pretty solid performances and they all sounded quite "loverly".
My Fair Lady runs at the Kennedy Center through January 19th. Ticket information can be accessed here: https://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/event/TUTSD#tickets