note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Richard Pacheco
“Ocean State Theatre's "My Fair Lady" is a winning and wonderful production propelled by some strong voices, snappy and sassy dance numbers and a wonderful set. True the musical runs about three hours but the terrific performances make it worthwhile.
The classic Lerner and Lowe show is set in London in 1912 with the timeless tale of Professor Henry Higgins, an irritable, cranky confirmed bachelor who takes on the task of converting street flower vendor Eliza Dolittle into a lady devoid of her Cockney manners and accent. The musical is inspired by the George Bernard Show play, “Pygmalion” from 1914. The book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe it takes a classic rags to riches tale merrily along with some great songs brought to life by some stunning performances that are sure to delight.
Jessica Wagner as Eliza Doolittle, the Cockney flower girl who blossoms into a lady is pure delight. She shows a mastery of the Cockney accent which she incorporates with skill and finesse, flawlessly. Her transition into proper English is exquisite and perfection itself as is her transition from street wise vendor into elegant lady with grace and style. She is not only a fine actress but she has an impressive voice as well which she uses with daring and flair. She sings with great presence and bravura in songs like “Wouldn’t It be Loverly” and “Rain in Spain” as well as the ever classic “I Could Have Danced All Night.”
Her foil, the irascible Henry Higgins, is played with flair and perfect fussiness by Richard Costa. Even more impressive is the fact that he stepped in at the last moment for a member of the cast who dropped out. It makes his performance even more telling and impressive. Costa is full of a certain assurance and almost pompous self confidence ast Higgins. He knows the answers and that is that. He shines with great skill and power in songs like “Why Can’t the English” and “I’m an Ordinary Man.”
Todd Berkich plays Col Pickering, Higgins cohort a man who is Higgins best friend and older than he actually is. He is convincing and shows a real flair as well as a wonderful tenor voice which he displays with great effect in the trio. “Rain in Spain,” and in “You Did It” at the success of Eliza and Higgins at the ball.
There are so many riches here in the performances like with Eliza’s ne’er do well father, Alfie played with skill and vitality by Peter Tedeschi. He also shows a strong singing voice in songs like "Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me to the Church."
His two drunken cohorts in bad behavior, Daniel Larsen and Jonathan Olivera, are sheer fun.
Roger Reed as Freddy a spoiled young man with a serious crush on Eliza which he displays in “On the Street Where You Live” in a musical fashion that is impressive.
This large cast is full of talented performers in all the roles and all deliver their best consistently and with great energy and finesse. The riches here are abundant and continual.
Director Aimee Turner evokes stunning performances from her talented cast. Her choreography is impressive and often sheer unabashed fun. She knows how to direct s musical with skill and flair and she displays it with this with confident strokes all the way through. Her dances shine as in “Wouldn’t It be Loverly” and “With a Little Bit of Luck” or the chic and simple elegance of “Ascot Gavotte.”
Musical director Esther Gabinski who also directs the orchestra is superb as well with a flair for finesse and passion that is impressive.
Valerie Remillard-Myette as Mrs. Pearce shines as well with her roles as the sevant. Melanie Souza is a gem as Henry’s sarcastic mother.
The costumes by Brian Horton are simply stunning in every scene without a doubt. In the scene at Ascot racetrack his use of black and white in the costumes is spectacular and engaging, leaving a distinct visual impression that lingers in the mind’s eye, shimmers like an impressionist painting.
Clifton Chadick’s sets are eye catching and impressive. His study for Henry Higgins is a wonder, full of deft touches that are revealing and impressive such as the various talking machines scattered about, the globe and the animal skull over the door.
This production captures the elegance, flair and style with a freshness that is appealing and entrancing, keeping everything new and full of vitality.