"My Fair Lady" show #825
I am of the Golden Age fandom who thinks My Fair Lady is a wonderfully entertaining musical which will be lost to time in the nearing decades. It’s not that it’s not well-adapted, which it is, and it’s not like it isn’t well-scored, which it is. It’s simply that, at some point, it will be near impossible to stage Henry Higgins without it becoming a complete farce or an undesirable wink to the past. That said, the touring Lincoln Center Theater production, directed by Bartlett Sher, is an absolutely loverly production of the Lerner and Loewe classic. This tour gives audiences the classic story and musical legitimacy while breathing a modern take into its outdated sexism and deprecating demeanor.
Higgins and Eliza are two of literature’s and musical theatre’s most-treasured characters. They’re packed with musical turns and excellent dialogue. Both roles are in great hands with Shereen Ahmed as Eliza and Laird Mackintosh as Higgins. Where the two thrive in chemistry is not with each other, necessarily, but in what the other offers that is of personal value to their character. Ahmed shows Eliza's has insatiable chemistry with the dream of being accepted into society as a proper lady/flower shop girl. She sees Prof. Higgins as the necessary evil to achieve that status, and therefore puts up with the abuse, both verbal and academic. Mackintosh meanwhile delivers a delightful bratty-ness to his Higgins due to his confidence that he can turn Eliza into an acceptable lady of society. What he finds, however, is the chemistry of Eliza’s transition from pawn to well-spoken, no-nonsense woman. It’s a challenge Higgins has never faced before, and it’s that novelty on Eliza’s face that he falls, albeit unintentionally, for. Ahmed and Mackintosh play these parts so well that the audience nearly forgets any true romantic chemistry need exist between the two, and it provides empowerment to Eliza that Ahmed is superb in portraying.
Kevin Pariseau is charming as Col. Pickering, making his laugh lines and genuine care towards Eliza’s well-being more than an investment in a bet but as a loving turn. Adam Grupper delivers animated gruff to his turn as Alfred, leading “With a Little Bit of Luck,” and the dance-delight “Get Me to the Church on Time,” with infectious energy. Gayton Scott delivers a sublime turn as Mrs. Pearce, chief maid to Prof. Higgins. Scott finds all the funny without mugging, serving as a superb foil to Higgins’ strictness while still keeping the house staff in order. Leslie Alexander does the job any worthy Mrs. Higgins should accomplish and steals the show. Alexander delivers the strong matriarch with an underlying warmth, and her scene opposite Ahmed in late act two is a dynamite lesson learned for Mackintosh’s Higgins. Sam Simahk brings a beautiful tenor to his turn at “On the Street Where You Live,” and has the boyish crush down pat when opposite Ahmed.
The ensemble is a fabulous unit of townspeople, embassy guests, drunks, and other patrons within the musical, but the highlight is the pitch-perfect quartet comprised of Colin Anderson, Christopher Faison, William MIchals, and Gerard M. Williams in “Wouldn’t it Be Loverly?” Christopher Gattelli’s choreography is given great translation for the touring adaptations, never diluting the impact of the dance while still impressing and flashy as all get out. My Fair Lady continues its tour around the nation, so head to their website and see if it’ll drop near a street where you live soon!