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You may not want to dance all night, but the Woodside Community Theatre (WCT) production of “My Fair Lady” should at least entice you to twirl a few times around the dance floor. That said, it’s also a production of this revered Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe musical where the male leads dominate the women actors and, in fact, give “Lady” a totally different feel. They’re macho, they’re gruff and they brook no nonsense. And they’re wonderfully smooth dancers. It isn’t so much that diminutive Alicia Teeter doesn’t do a credible job as Eliza Doolittle — she does. She has a divine voice and a steely demeanor when she feels mean ol’ Professor Henry Higgins (a surprisingly adroit Aaron Weisberg) is ganging up on her.
Yes, sometimes the braggart professor forgets that Eliza’s actually a living, breathing human being rather than his intriguing experiment of turning a bedraggled “guttersnipe” into a princess, (Higgins says he’ll make her a duchess, but who even knows what a duchess IS these days!), After describing ballet shoes book with necklace her as a lowly piece of “baggage,” Higgins tells his crony Colonel Pickering (a hilariously doddering take on the role by Steven Anthony) that Eliza is “…so deliciously low, so horribly dirty.” It’s such an unachievable challenge that the arrogant, impossibly smug Professor Higgins can’t resist betting the Colonel 50 pounds that he, Henry Higgins, is the only man who can accomplish the task..
So, although the 1957 multiple Tony Award-winning musical has had numerous revivals and spawned movies, parodies, You Tube videos and everything in-between, somehow the homegrown WCT crew has managed to produce a version that is fairly unique. The fine set designed by Akio Patrick (with help from Don Coluzzi and Tina Patrick as scenic artists) adds immensely to the grandeur of this production: There’s a street scene replete with low lives hovered around a flickering fire in a barrel, flower girls selling their posies and the exterior of a typically British public house; there’s Professor Higgins’ handsome study with rich, deep blue walls and a split stairway, a gramophone and rudimentary recording devices of the Edwardian era; and there’s the ballroom where the Queen of Transylvania (a blue-sequined, tiara-wearing Claudia McCarley) puts on an Embassy Ball. All tres elegante.
Coluzzi also gets credit for appropriately lighting the set, and Rob Harper’s sound design is on target, Although director John Baiocchi could have tightened up a few scenes, overall he keeps his large cast moving, Speaking of the cast, several others stand out, none more so than Joanie Pugh Newman, Newman makes every scene she’s in sizzle, a quality that Darlene Batchelder as the beleaguered Mrs, Pearce could have applied to make her character more memorable, It’s sheer joy to hear Newman stare deadpan as her son shows up at her house and decry ballet shoes book with necklace “Henry! What a disagreeable surprise.”..
Weisberg also adds a shade of mischief and nuance to many of the professor’s most well-known quotes like “Have you ever met a man of good character where women are concerned?” and “There even are places where English completely disappears; in America they haven’t spoken it for years.”. That sparked a lively response from the opening night crowd, as did many of Shaw’s familiar lines and the always-popular “My Fair Lady” songs. Justin Kerekes as Freddy Eynsford-Hill, Eliza’s love-struck suitor, is all gangly legs and arms, lapping up any little vestige of a smile from Eliza and convincingly selling his vow to hang out forever “On the Street Where You Live.”.
Sadly, the Alfred P, Doolittle role, as imagined by Daniel Dominguez, has all of the swagger and unpleasantness of ballet shoes book with necklace his character without any of the sweet-talking charm. As a result, his two numbers, “With a Little Bit of Luck” and “Get Me to the Church on Time,” which should be show-stoppers, instead look as if they were taken over by a gang of thugs who shuffle and scuffle around rather than dance, And that’s just … well, depressing, Gary Stanford Jr, is credited with the choreography, and he gets five stars for the ballroom dance sequence as well as the dances in Higgins’ study, But the all-men numbers disappoint..
Another wrong move is having all the minor characters move around so much. It tends to take focus off the lead actors as they relate to each other. Of course, no production of “My Fair Lady” can stand up to scrutiny without a solid orchestra to produce those fabulous Lerner and Lowe tunes. Conductor Kristin Pfeifer and her 17-member pit requite themselves beautifully and, though all of the score is played enthusiastically, the music never interferes with the ability of the audience to actually hear the lyrics being sung onstage. Bravo.
Costumer Karen Patrick created a different look for some of the familiar characters in this show, Most of Weisberg’s costumes seem somewhat too ballet shoes book with necklace casual for the learned professor and the muted maroon dress Eliza wears when she’s sent upstairs to be scrubbed and given new clothes seems too drab for her, (Strange, because the flower girls all seem too clean and nicely dressed if they make their living selling posies.), But Patrick lets out all the stops for the ballroom scene, with both Higgins and Pickering in dashing evening wear, a medal-heavy sash on Zoltan Karpathy (overacted by Gary Pugh Newman) and Eliza in an exquisite white satin gown with sparkling “diamonds” everywhere..