The opening show of Bill Hanney's all new North Shore Music Theatre's 2011 season is the classic Broadway smash musical hit, Lerner and Loewe's "My Fair Lady". The show is hailed as one of the greatest musicals of all time and is the timeless story of Professor Henry Higgins, the crotchety, middle-aged bachelor and phonetician and Eliza Doolittle, the Cockney flower girl, who becomes part of his experiment in order to transform herself into a "lady". The story is based on George Bernard Shaw's 1914 play "Pygmalion" with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The story follows her journey from rags to riches in a joyful manner and thrills you all night long. Charles Repole keeps the pacing of the show moving all night long with expert musical direction and conducting by Craig Barna and terrific choreography by Michael Lichtefeld. This splendid show is rewarded with a thunderous and well deserved standing ovation at the close of the night.
Owner Bill Hanney and artistic director Arianna Knapp spare no expense in bringing this classic tale to life with gorgeous, breathtaking costumes by Gail Baldoni from Costume World Theatrical and a marvelous set by Howard C. Jones.This show is directed by Charles who blocks each scene, creating picture postcard moments and obtaining topnotch performances from his hard working cast. Craig musically directs and conducts a splendid 13 piece orchestra. They do a terrific job with this show and he obtains glorious harmonies from his cast. Michael creates some upbeat dances for "Loverly","Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me to the Church", a tango for "The Rain in Spain" and the graceful "Ascot Gavotte" and the cast performs the dances expertly. The cast is lead by Charles Shaughnessy who starred on TV in "The Nanny". He is marvelous as Henry Higgins. Charles brings the curmudgeon to life as he yells and rails at people for not doing his bidding. His diction is so precise that you understand his every line and lyric. His strong singing voice starts off the show with the tongue twisting, "Why Can't the English" teach their children how to speak and continues to show off his expert handling of "An Ordinary Man" until you let a woman in your life and then she drives you nuts and "Hymn to Him" about why can't a woman be more like a man but he tugs at your heartstrings in his lament at losing Eliza in "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face". Charles brings out the fun side of Higgins in the "The Rain in Spain" trio and in "You Did It" where he gets the praise for Eliza's success at the ball. His leading lady, Eliza Doolittle is excellently played by Lisa O'Hare who is a lovely statuesque blonde but as Eliza wears a brunette wig which makes her look like Audrey Hepburn. She handles the transition from Cockney flower girl to high class British lady splendidly. Lisa's many songs include "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" where she yearns to be a lady which is backed up by the chorus, "Rain in Spain" trio when she finally learns how to speak like a lady, the exuberant "I Could Have Danced All Night" when Eliza's crush on Higgins is revealed and in her three angry songs "Just You Wait" where she is exasperated by Higgins' lessons, "Show Me" where she is upset at Higgins mistreatment of her after the ball and takes it out on Freddy and "Without You" where she finally stands up to Higgins bullying of her and tells him off. Her gorgeous soprano voice soars off the charts up to a high C at the end of "I Could Have Danced All Night". One of her funniest moments occurs at Come on Dover, move your blooming arse during the Gavotte scene.
Higgins' right hand man, Colonel Pickering is played with gusto by Peter Comican. He plays this stodgy older man who treats Eliza respectfully and obtains a chance to show off his terrific voice in "You Did It" when he sings of Higgins success with Eliza at the Ball. Peter gives this role the needed comic timing to pull it off without a hitch. Another comic performance is given by Bill Dietrich as Eliza's father, Alfred P. Doolittle, who is constantly drunk. His acting is as marvelous as his singing voice which he displays in "Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me to the Church on Time" which both turn into big chorus song and dance extravaganzas. One of the most powerful voices in this show belongs to Hayden Tee who plays Freddy, Eliza's love interest. His acting is topnotch as this naive, rich and spoiled young man and his tenor voice is fantastic in "On the Street Where You Live". Hayden who hails from New Zealand, stops the show with his powerhouse voice. Cheryl McMahon uses her lovely voice as Mrs. Pearce, Higgins maid who leads the servant chorus in this show. She has many funny one liners and makes them all hit pay dirt. Sarah deLima plays Mrs. Higgins with the right amount of indignation and feistiness especially funny is the Gavotte scene and her final scene with Higgins and Eliza where her final "Bravo Eliza" won her many laughs. The most outstanding group numbers are Alfie's two songs and Ascot Gavotte where the chorus watch the race as the upper crust British and show no reaction to the exuberant race. Kudos to everyone who made "My Fair Lady" a show to be very proud of and one of the must see shows of this season. Tell them Tony sent you.