On Wednesday evening September 24th 1997, I had the good fortune to be present at the opening of The Lyric Stage's production of Shaw's Pygmalion. This was a pleasant reminder of how good theatre can be. From the moment we entered the space, I felt a trace of that olde theatrical magic that makes all the hardship worthwhile. What was it about that space?
This was the second time I've been to the Lyric, and the second time I've said to myself "I should come here more often". Something about the place and the space give rise to a positive theatrical experience, which I believe is a near impossible task, but I digress... I must simply applaud Ms. Hogan and crew for making the theatrical event happen, and oh so well.
Now the play, Pygmalion, is also quite good. This is a near seamless production that is as entertaining as provocative. Often these two things have nothing to do with one another, but here they are married. With gender issues, social issues,God issues, family issues, and all sorts of other important issues being gleaned, it was very nice to be entertained as well. Now what entertains?
Particularly entertaining were Robert J. Bouffier as Henry Higgins and Michael Bradshaw as Alfred Doolittle. I have a love of pompously righteous characters like Higgins and am heartily impressed by Mr. Bouffiers interpretation (Rex who?). Mr. Bradshaw as the salt-of-the-earth Doolittle provided us with a most humourous account of the pains of being recently upheaved to a life of wealth.
Perhaps the greatest journey to be witnessed during this evening is the transcendence of Eliza Doolittle, so well done by Susan McConnell. Yeah, the excellent costumes helped, and it is a rags to riches journey, but whoa, Midnight at Wimpole Street Act Four is worth the ticket price.
All the characters worked. I felt everyone had a real life fleshing out the exquisite costumes of Mr. Polezak. Although we barely see Freddie, Neil McGarry really gives us a glimpse into the nice guy he is, and that Eliza deserves. So I guess I'll reiterate: the characters worked, they had life. My favorite, however, was Mrs. Higgins. Ms. Eve Johnson gave all the humour, dignity, class, and grace that Mrs. Higgins demands.
Fans of "My Fair Lady", the film (I never saw a "production"), may be a little lost with several "important" scenes missing, but may not be too disoriented because of the use of dancers to help tastefully segue scenes. Ah yes, that reminds me, that was done very well too! Right from the beginning there is a montage of sorts helping us into the world of Covent Garden and we see most the characters blast by (I strongly remember Freddie and the "Taxi") in a well "choreographed" manner that really helped create the world we were to visit.
So, good job done by all. Highly recommended. I look forward to a return to the Lyric Stage this season (particularly Antigone), and wish its current production of Shaw's Pygmalion well, well done!