Eliza Doolittle – Shereen Ahmed
Henry Higgins – Laird Mackintosh
Colonel Pickering – Kevin Pariseau
Freddy Eynsford-Hill – Sam Simahk
Alfred P. Doolittle – Martin Fisher
Mrs. Pearce – Gayton Scott
Mrs. Higgins – Leslie Alexander
Prof. Zoltan Karpathy – Lee Zarrett
Ensemble: Rajeer Alford, Colin Anderson, Mark Banik, Michael Biren, Brandon Block, Mary Callanan, Elena Camp, Allyson Carr, Christopher Faison, Nicole Ferguson, Juliane Godfrey, Colleen Grate, Stuart Marland, William Michals, Aisha Mitchell, Rommel Pierre O’Choa, Keven Quillon, JoAnna Rhinehart, Samantha Sturm, Gerard M. Williams & Minami Yusui.
Bartlett Sher – Director
Will Curry – Music Director
Christopher Gattelli – Choreographer
Michael Yeargan – Set Designer
Catherine Zuber – Costume Designer
Donald Holder – Lighting Designer
Marc Salzberg – Sound Designer
Tom Watson – Hair/Wig Designer
Aaron Heeter – Stage Manager
Reviewed by: David M. Rice
Reviewed: 19 April, 2022
Venue: Dreyfoos Concert Hall, Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, West Palm Beach, Florida
This outstanding production of Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady ran for more than five-hundred performances at New York’s Lincoln Center before beginning a North American tour in late-2019 that was interrupted by the pandemic. After the present run in West Palm Beach, the tour will visit about twenty-five other US cities through the Spring of 2023.
Bartlett Sher’s spectacular staging takes full advantage of Michael Yeargan’s magnificent set, the centerpiece of which is Henry Higgins’s two-story Wimpole Street house, situated on a platform that rotates to allow the audience to follow the actors as they move from one room to another. The house recedes when the action moves to other locales, including Covent Garden, Ascot, an embassy ballroom, and Alfred Doolittle’s local pub. Catherine Zuber’s costumes are gorgeous, with Eliza’s hat and gown at Ascot and her gown at the embassy ball particularly stunning. Christopher Gattelli’s entertaining choreography includes elegant waltzes and a show-stopping, high-stepping, number celebrating Doolittle’s farewell to bachelorhood.
Shereen Ahmed is brilliant in carrying off Eliza’s transformation from flower-girl to refined lady. Her vocalizations at first fall painfully on Higgins’s (and our) ears, and her awkward attempts at polite conversation at Ascot are hilarious, but the personality that emerges under the tutelage of Laird Mackintosh’s Higgins ultimately wins us over. Ahmed sings superbly, accompanied by a vocal quartet as Eliza dreams of creature comforts in ‘Wouldn’t It Be Luverly’, but later is more agitated in ‘Just You Wait’ and ‘Show Me’. The celebratory trio ‘The Rain in Spain’ with Mackintosh and Kevin Pariseau’s Colonel Pickering, and Ahmed’s ensuing solo, ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’, are the musical highlights.
Mackintosh is a terrific Higgins, projecting his outward insensitivity in ‘Why Can’t the English?’ and ‘A Hymn to Him’, while revealing a more sympathetic underlying personality in ‘I’m an Ordinary Man’ and ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face’. The confrontations between Higgins and Eliza crackle with dramatic tension, especially when the two meet in Mrs Higgins’s conservatory, but in its final moments this production leaves that tension unresolved.
Pariseau’s Pickering generally serves as a check on Higgins’s often cruel treatment of Eliza, yet in ‘You Did It’ he is just as insensitive to her feelings. Sam Simahk is an engaging Freddy, beautifully voicing ‘On the Street Where You Live’. Martin Fisher gives an entertaining portrayal of Doolittle, first celebrating his carefree life in ‘With a Little Bit of Luck’, and later bidding farewell to that freedom in ‘Get Me to the Church on Time’, and Fisher shows off his dancing skills, including a delightful tap-dance on a tabletop. Gayton Scott, Leslie Alexander and Lee Zarrett give fine performances and everyone acts, sings and dances with great spirit, as Will Curry leads an orchestra performing Loewe’s superb score.
This production, with a different cast, is scheduled for a sixteen-week run at the London Coliseum under the auspices of English National Opera, from May 7 through August 27.