Actor's Collaborative in Foxboro's latest show is Lerner & Lowe's, famous musical, "My Fair Lady". Based on George Bernard Shaw's 1914 play, "Pygmalion", the story concerns 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 and triumphant manner from start to finish with the highest production values this side of Broadway. Director Judy Post, musical director, Rob Goldman and choreographer, Marianne Lonati choose the best people for their roles and they make the action quick paced, keeping the audience's attention focused on this marvelous musical masterpiece.
Judy directs and blocks her talented 30 member cast wonderfully, getting the desired emotions out of them all. The action never stops and the fantastic sets built by her husband, Alan and designed by Daniel Kozar and Rose Noice add to the authenticity of London in 1912. The Higgins two story study with a huge staircase, gigantic window and numerous books, is easily slid on and off stage as are all the backdrops and other sets in the show.(Daniel not only designed the set, he designed all the breathtaking costumes in the show especially Liza's gowns as well as coproduced it with John Ristaino) Rob's direction of the orchestra and the vocalists is outstanding. Not only does the orchestra sound beautiful but the diction and vocal prowess of the singers soar under his expertise. The harmony in the numbers is impressive as are the dance numbers by Marianne. She trains these people so well that the stage is full of dancing precision especially in "Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me To the Church" and the graceful, "Embassy Waltz". Marianne's next assignment is as the director of "Grease" in June with Rob as her musical director. Great job by Judy, Rob and Marianne on a very impressive show.
The cast is headed by two fabulous leads. Gary Poholek is perfect as Henry Higgins, the ultimate curmudgeon who yells and rails at people for not doing his bidding. His accent and diction are so precise that you can understand his every line and lyric. Gary's strong singing voice starts off the show with the tongue twisting, "Why Can't The English" and continues to please the audience in "An Ordinary Man" and "Hymn to Him" but he tugs at the heartstrings in "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face". The joyous trio of "The Rain in Spain" brings out the fun side of Higgins so Gary can show off the other part of the character's personality. Bravo. His leading lady,Jennifer Mischley, is every much his equal in both acting and singing ability. She has a gorgeous soprano voice which soars up to a high C in "I Could Have Danced" when Eliza admits her crush on Higgins and in the angry, "Show Me". Also impressive are Jen's other numbers including "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" backed up by the harmony of the Cockney male quartet(Rick Copeland, Daniel Gravely, H. Bryan Nilsen and Michael Tempeton), "Just You Wait" which shows her anger at being treated badly by Higgins and "Without You" which shows her standing up to Higgins as his equal. The transition from flower girl into lady is splendid as is the exuberant "Rain in Spain" when she finally speaks properly. Jen handles the comic moments with ease but the strength of her acting shines in her argument scenes with Higgins right after the Ball and at his mother's house. Brava. Her entrance for Ball is stunning with her clad in a gorgeous white gown, looking as radiant as Audrey Hepburn in the movie. (The Ascot dress and her final pink ensemble are also impressive as are the black and white gowns of all the women in the Ascot scene.) Both Gary and Jen do such a fantastic job in their parts, they will make you forget you have ever seen anyone else in these roles.
Higgin's right hand man, Colonel Pickering is played by the multitalented Daniel Kozar who does multiple tasks for this show. He plays the stodgy, older man with ease and sings "You Did It" in praise of Higgins success with Eliza at the Ball. He also treats Eliza more humanely than Higgins. This role is much different then the last one I saw him do in "The Wizard of Oz".I almost didn't recognize him without his green makeup. Daniel's talent comes through in playing many diverse roles. One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Fred Letchford as Alfred P. Doolittle, Eliza's constantly drunk, father. His two numbers "Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me to the Church" turn into big chorus song and dance extravaganzas. Fred makes this amoral cad humorous and when he leaves the stage in his latter song with flower in hand being held aloft by his friends, it is the perfect closing touch to the number. (He's saying being married is the same as being dead because he looks like he is headed to his funeral instead of his nuptials.) His energetic drinking cronies who sing and dance up a storm with him are played by Paul Brooks and Alan Post. Fred's real life wife, Verena plays Mrs. Higgins. She gives her the feistiness needed to keep Henry in line, making it a memorable role. The other woman trying to keep Henry in line is his maid, Mrs. Pearce played by Cathy Corcoran. She makes this strict woman funny by her various facial expressions and line delivery. Another outstanding voice in this show belongs to Jen's real life husband, Kevin Mischley who plays Eliza's love interest Freddy. His rendition of "On The Street Where You Live" with his powerful tenor voice, is mesmerizing. Kevin's reactions to Eliza's new talk at the races and being thrown around the stage during "Show Me" are some laugh out loud moments during the evening. Kudos to one and all who make this a show to be proud of.
So for one of the best versions of "My Fair Lady", be sure to catch this one. You won't be disappointed by the acting, singing and dancing. You will also enjoy the ambiance of the Orpheum which is an historic theatre building in Foxboro, MA.