'My Fair Lady' Sparkles
There is not a better way to start your summer than with a little “Loverly” and Broadway by The Bay current production of MY FAIR LADY. The show sparkles with talent and excellent performances. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s iconic play PYGMALION, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s musical about Eliza Doolittle has been billed as the “perfect musical”. Set in 1912 London, the story is a Cockney flower girl Eliza, who learns the proper way to speak English by Professor Henry Higgins. It won six Tonys and remained on Broadway setting a record for a longest run.
Elegantly directed by Kenneth Savage he says “Our production of My Fair Lady explores illumination,- The teaching is mutual: Higgins exposes Eliza to the life of the British upper crust while she brings light into his emotionally sequestered personal life”. And the illumination is clear in the look and set of show - it is bright new look at MY FAIR LADY. The non traditional casting is impressive, Samantha Williamson as Eliza has a wonderful voice and she amazes in “I Could have Danced All Night”. Her father Alfred Doolittle played by Gary Stanford is perfect, as he sings “Get Me To The Church On Time” is a second act show stopper and is one of the highlights of the show.
The marvelous Scott Solomon is cast as the infamous perfectionist, Henry Higgins. The role was originated by Rex Harrison, and many actors basically attempt to mimic his acidic performance. But Solomon’s take on Higgins is a fresh look at the man, who would change Eliza. He has a great character arc that starts with a courteous, then become distant and uncaring to the final act where he performs the classic “I Have Grown Accustomed to Her Face”. Solomon has the perfect acting voice for Mr Higgins.
Williams stunning voice sends Eliza’s classic songs soaring out into the Fox Theatre audience, and her timing skills show the feisty young women seeking a better life, it is a demanding role for any actress. Williams does at times look taller than her male leads but that makes for great dynamics. Solomon and Williams both have a huge dose of talent and wit in their performances, that warms up the audience as we root for both of them by the end of the show.
The supporting cast is just as talented, local favorite Sergey Khalikulov warms your heart as Freddy, the young man who falls for Eliza. Khalikulov sings “On the Street Where You Live” is a knock out, his sense of joy and his beautiful voice. Praveen Ramesh brings the right amount of humor and care as Colonel Pickering. Karen Dehart and Kristina Hudelson as Mrs Higgins and the maid Mrs Pearce both have the perfect amount of compassion and charm. Deharts dry wit gets great laughs from the sold out opening night crowd.
MY FAIR LADY has a rich score by Frederick Loewe, so the orchestra and chorus is essential to making this show as pristine as it is. Music director Jessie Sanchez and his eleven person orchestra and on stage chorus give this show the “Loverly” it deserves. Savage asked his set designer Annie Dauber for a bright open set, to allow light and focus on themes of light, it almost appears as a camera lens that opens and closes for light. Andrew Kaufmans light design does the sunshine for this cast, the big window curtains are tied back, creating the show illumination for the palace and players on stage. Costumes stunningly designed by Valerie Emmi Victorian-era fashion, I did expect Mr Doolittle to appear a little more grungy in his look, but as a dapper dad it worked great. Eliza’s gorgeous beaded dress for the ball at times upstage the scene, and the entire cast is on the tops in ascot race scene. There are elegant steps and high kicks for “Wouldn’t it be Loverly” choreographed by Camille Edralin, and the waltz numbers arranged by Taylor Kinney. BBBay staff include Artistic Director Amanda Folena, Exec Director Jason Hoover and Production Manager Alicia Jeffrey.
What sets this productions apart from other versions, is the nontraditional casting. Director Savage made the choice to cast African American in some of the leads. Its so perfect and well deserved on all Bay Area stages. I did see a African American Mary Poppins and an Asian Music Man out in Berkeley this season, so times for casting are always get better.
Not to forget one of the iconic songs of this gem “The Rain In Spain”, when Liza finally drops her cockney accent. Both Williams and Solomon are at their best, dialect coach Kim Conkle kept her cast in perfect cockney. The talented ensemble members who fill out the other many characters deserves mention: Leslie Lloyd, Joe Hudelson, Sandra Henschke, Kyle Arrouzet, Lauren Herman, Jesse Cortez, Andrew Kracht, Anna L. Joham, and Jessica Golden.
This “Fair Lady” is stunning and is sure to be the best way to begin your summer theatre season. If you haven’t seen this musical in a few years - it is time to return to Mr Higgins library and see this beautiful show. Its runs through June 21, 2015 on the Broadway by the Bay Redwood city Fox stage, and moves to Golden State Theatre in Monterey: Saturday, June 27 -
MY FAIR LADY
Book Alan Jay Lerner, Music by Frederick Loewe,
Directed by Ken Savage, Music Director Jesse Sanchez
Fox Theatre, 2215 Broadway, Redwood City
Tickets: $47-$69; 650-579-5565 or www.broadwaybythebay.org
Clip from show https://youtu.be/O-fNMCKNMcg
Photo’s by Mark Kitaoka and Tracy Martin
MY FAIR LADY Performance Schedule at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City:
Friday, 8PM Saturday 8PM, Sunday at 2PM Saturday,
June 13 at 2PM Saturday, June 13 at 8PM Sunday,
June 14 at 2PM* Saturday, June 20 at 8PM Sunday,
June 21 at 2PM
MY FAIR LADY Performance Schedule at the Golden State Theatre in Monterey: Saturday, June 27 at 8pm Sunday, June 28 at 2pm