WINDY CITY TIMES
||THEATER REVIEW My Fair Lady
Special to the Online Edition of Windy City Times
by Mary Shen Barnidge
This article shared 2325 times since Wed Dec 23, 2009
Playwright: Music by Frederick Loewe, book & lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, based on the play, Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw. At: Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott, Lincolnshire. Phone: 847-634-0200; $45. Runs through: Feb. 14
My Fair Lady is nowadays lauded as the "perfect musical," but recreating perfection a half-century later presents its challenges: For one, its adaptation from Shaw's five-act play makes for an unusually long stretch from curtain to intermission. For another, its premiere production featured male headliners with near-atonal voices performing all but one of the songs assigned to that gender. Finally, the irregularity of an unmarried young lady lodging with a pair of bachelorsan issue often addressed by Shaw, if only to be dismissedhas nowadays been replaced by a mandate on sexual tensions unavoidable in this household arrangement.
Director Dominic Missimi, faced with the Marriott's arena-sized stage, solves the structural problem by setting a pace not unlike that of the racehorses at Ascot ( whose progress Robert E. Gilmartin replicates in stereophonic sound ) : dialogue slides into recitative with nary a pause, troops of actors in stiff-collared Edwardian garb march through their drill formations, scenery is handed up the aisles to stagehands like buckets in a fire-brigadeand purists may detect a verse or two missing from their favorite ballads.
What prevents this becoming a simple sprint through the score, however, is Heidi Kettenring's complex portrayal of Eliza Doolittle, the sullen street-girl who undertakes to better herself and succeeds beyond her own, and her mentors', expectations. Not only does Kettenring have the vocal body and range to deliver speeches, both spoken and sung, with fully realized emotional expression, but she retains the subtextual revelations largely ignored by her fellow players to reveal her character's private responses to the events surrounding her. This attention to detail puts us squarely into this three-dimensional Eliza's corner from her first entrance.
David Lively as Colonel Pickering and Ann Whitney as Mrs. Higgins, likewise, emerge as personalities possessing depth and humor to win our support. But the status of Professor Higgins, in this production, remains curiously nebulous. Kevin Gudahl's too-elderly appearance hardly suggests a love interest ( after the manner of the recent Light Opera Works interpretation ) , but his fussy academic is too boyish to achieve a suitably avuncular mien, resulting in a dynamic more that of a spoiled sibling squabbling with his equally headstrong sistera considerably less sympathetic foil for our ambitious heroine. And in the final scene, we are unsure whether their relationship has undergone a change, or if she has merely come to accept her place in this man's world.
This article shared 2325 times since Wed Dec 23, 2009
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