Reagle Music Theatre's third show of their summer 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, opened on Broadway in 1956, ran for 2717 performances and became the longest-running Broadway musical of its time. It 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 the George Bernard Shaw 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. Broadway veteran director Larry Sousa keeps the pacing of his 46 member cast moving all night long with expert musical direction by Dan Rodriguez and expert conducting of the 26 piece orchestra by Jeff Leonard and terrific choreography by Rachel Bertone who recreates Hanya Holm's original Tony Award-nominated choreography. This splendid show is rewarded with a thunderous and well deserved standing ovation at the close of the night.
Producer Robert Eagle spares no expense in bringing this classic tale to life with gorgeous costumes, costume designer Joe Michenzie adapts Cecil Beaton's original Tony Award-winning costumes and a marvelous set by Richard Schreiber. This show is directed by Larry who blocks each scene, creating picture postcard moments, obtaining topnotch performances from his hard working cast. Dan musically directs and obtains glorious harmonies from his cast. Jeff conducts a splendid orchestra with outstanding strings. Rachel 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 them expertly. The Buskers dance by Alex Nemiroski and Darren Bunch is marvelous as is the grand waltz for the Embassy Waltz. There are many show stopping moments in this terrific show.
The cast is lead by Rick Hilsabeck, who is married to leading lady,Sarah Pfisterer. He is marvelous as Henry Higgins. Rick 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 topnotch handling of "An Ordinary Man" until you let a woman in your life, that's when they drive you crazy, and "Hymn to Him" about why can't a woman be more like a man, a really chauvinistic . However Rick tugs at your heartstrings in his lament at losing Eliza in "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face". He brings out the fun side of Higgins in "The Rain in Spain" trio and in "You Did It" where he gets the praise for Eliza's success at the ball. Eliza Doolittle is excellently played by Rick's gorgeous wife, Sarah. I have been reviewing her for the past eight years and she always does a spectacular job. She handles the transition from Cockney flower girl to high class British lady splendidly. Sarah's many songs include "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" where she yearns to be a lady where she backed up by a topnotch quartet, Peter Mill, David Carney, Christopher King and Chris Brindly, "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 the three angry songs "Just You Wait" where she is exasperated by Higgins' phonics lessons, "Show Me" where she is upset at Higgins mistreatment of her after the ball, taking it out on Freddy and "Without You" where she finally stands up to Higgins bullying of her, telling him off. Sarah's gorgeous soprano voice soars off the charts up to a high C at the end of "I Could Have Danced". She handles the comic and dramatic moments perfectly. The poignant version of "Loverly" in the second act is heartfelt and moving. Some of her funniest moments occur during the Gavotte scene with her hilarious small talk and especially when she utters "Come on Dover, move your blooming arse." Terrific job by these two leading players. They first worked together in the first national touring company of "Phantom of the Opera" and I last reviewed both of them in "Hello, Dolly".
R. Michael Wresinski is wonderful as Colonel Pickering, Higgins' right hand man. He plays this stodgy older man who treats Eliza respectfully and shows off his terrific voice in "You Did It" when he sings of Higgins success with Eliza at the Ball. R. Michael gives this role the comic timing to pull it off successfully. Another comic performance is given by Jerry Walker as Eliza's father, Alfred P. Doolittle, who is constantly drunk. His acting is wonderful as is his singing voice which he displays in "Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me to the Church" which both turn into big chorus song and dance extravaganzas. One of the most powerful voices in this show belongs to Robert St. Laurence as 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". Robert stops the show with his powerhouse voice. Beth Gotha 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. I loved it when she put her hands over her ears on the last verse of "Hymn to Him". Donna Sorbello plays Mrs. Higgins with the right amount of indignation and feistiness especially funny is the Gavotte scene and her final scene with Henry and Eliza where her final "Bravo Eliza" won her many laughs. Another comic character is Zoltan Karparthy played wonderfully by Rich Sherburne. 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" the must see show of the summer season.