The final show of Academy Players 49th season is Lerner & Lowe's famous musical, "My Fair Lady". Based on George Bernard Shaw's 1914 play, 'Pygmalion", the story is about Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower seller in Covent Garden. She agrees to take speech lessons from phonetician, Henry Higgins after he insults her manner of speech after their first meeting. The story follows her journey from rags to riches in a joyful manner and keeps your attention all night long.
The show is directed by Cait Calvo, a theater veteran of many years and is musically directed by Judith Stillman who has a major international concert and recording career. She also conducts the splendid orchestra for the show while doing a magnificent job on the keyboards. Choreographer Mary Gendreau creates some upbeat dances for "Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me to the Church", a tango for "The Rain in Spain" and the graceful, "Embassy Waltz". The numerous outstanding costumes are by Jackie Granja with Heather Tingle as costume designer and head seamstress. The women's gowns are colorful and well done as is the set by George Reed, Pierre Mali, Chip Koch, Carl Glass and Bill Zech who created three huge chandeliers. The marble steps were built by Pierre and the expert painting design on them by Alex Lorraine. Tech director Dennis Pouliot keeps the show well lit and also handles the sound on the many body mics. The multitude of props are handled by Barbara Green and gathered by Shareen Zaki.
The cast is headed by veteran actor, Michael Thurber as Henry Higgins. He is perfect as the ultimate curmudgeon who yells and rails at people for not doing his bidding. Michael's accent and diction are 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" and continues to show off his expert handling of "An Ordinary Man" and "Hymn to Him" but tugs at the heartstrings in his lament at losing Eliza in "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face". Michael brings out the fun side of Higgins in the "The Rain in Spain" trio and in "You Did It". Bravo. His leading lady is played by Liana Stillman, a high school senior with many credits to her name, having started performing at age 5. Her many songs include "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" backed up by a topnotch harmony, as well as the exuberant "I Could Have Dance All Night" when her crush on Higgins is revealed, when she finally learns to speak like a lady in the trio of "Rain In Spain" and in two angry songs "Show Me" and "Without You" Her entrance in her gorgeous ball gown is breathtaking, too. Higgins' right hand man, Colonel Pickering is played with gusto by Stephen DeCesare. He plays a stodgy older man who treats Eliza respectfully and gets a chance to show off his glorious voice in "You Did It" where it soars off the charts when he sings of Higgins success with Eliza at the Ball. Stephen gives this role the needed energy and comic timing to pull it off.
Another comic performance is given by Thomas Epstein as Eliza's father, Alfie P. Doolittle who is constantly drunk. His acting is wonderful as is his singing voice which he shows off in "Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me to the Church on Time" which turn into big chorus song and dance extravaganzas. His two energetic drinking cronies are played by Chris Maxwell and Peter Fournier who sing and dance up a storm in this show. Another outstanding voice belongs to Steve Michelsson who plays Freddy, Eliza's love interest. His rendition of "On The Street Where You Live" is wonderful and his acting as her naive, rich and spoiled young man is right on the money. Mary Paolino plays his worry wart mother and Ruth Waterman plays Higgins' mother with the right amount of feistiness. Patrice Delponte uses her gorgeous soprano voice as Mrs. Pearce, Higgins maid who leads the servant chorus in the show. Kudos to one and all who worked on this show. So for a trip back to England in the early 1900's be sure to see "My Fair Lady" at Academy Players.