Theatre Mirror Reviews "My Fair Lady"


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"My Fair Lady"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Welcome to England in 1912 and into the world of Lerner and Loewe's classic "My Fair Lady", the current musical production at the Ocean State Theatre Company. The show is hailed as one of the greatest musicals of all times. 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 to turn her 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. Director Amiee Turner keeps the pacing of the show moving along beautifully, supplying some terrific choreography along the way with expert musical direction by Esther Zabinski. This splendid show is rewarded with a well deserved standing ovation at curtain call.

Amiee obtains topnotch performances from her talented cast. Some of her upbeat dances are seen in "Would't It Be Loverly", "Little Bit of Luck", "Get Me to the Church", a tango for "Rain in Spain" and the graceful "Ascot Gavotte". Esther plays lead keyboards and conducts a terrific 5 piece orchestra and obtains glorious harmonies from her cast. The amazing set is by Clifton Chadick especially impressive is the library set and the house facade. The gorgeous costumes are by Brian Horton especially impressive were Eliza's gowns and the Gavotte costumes. Leading this talented cast is Richard Costa as Henry Higgins. He brings this curmudgeon to life. Richard's strong voice is heard in the tongue twisting "Why Can't the English?" teach their children how to speak properly, "An Ordinary Man" until you let a woman in your life where she will drive you nuts, "Hymn to Him" about why women should be more like men, and finally in "I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face' where he tugs on your heartstrings as he laments his foul treatment of Eliza. He brings out the fun side of Higgins in "The Rain in Spain" trio and in "You Did It" where Higgins is praised for Eliza's success at the ball. Gorgeous brunette Jessica Wagner is excellent as his leading lady, Eliza Doolittle. She handles the transition from Cockney flower girl to high class British lady splendidly. Her fabulous soprano voice is heard in "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" where she yearns to be a lady, "Rain in Spain" trio where she finally learns to speak properly and in "I Could Have Danced All Night" where her crush on Higgins is revealed and her voice soars off the charts up to a high C in this one. Jessica also handles Eliza's angry songs with ease, "Just You Wait" where she is exasperated by Higgins' lessons, "Show Me" where she is upset at Higgins mistreatment of her after the ball, taking it out on Freddy and in "Without You" where she finally stands up to Higgins bullying of her and tells him off. Her funniest moment comes in the Gavotte scene where she urges "Dover to move his bloomin arse". She does a fabulous job as Eliza. Brava!

Todd Berkich who is a much younger actor plays the older role of Colonel Pickering, Higgins' best friend. He plays this stodgy older man perfectly, treating Eliza respectfully. Todd also obtains a chance to display his fantastic tenor voice in "Rain in Spain" trio and in "You Did It" when he praises Higgins success with Eliza at the ball. He gives the role the comic timing it needs. Another comic performer is Peter Tedeschi as Alfie P. Doolittle as Eliza's constantly drunk father. His acting is marvelous as is his singing voice in his two big numbers, "Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me to the Church". The latter number turns into a kickline. His two drunken cohorts are excellently played by Daniel Larsen and Jonathan Olivera. One of the most powerful voices in the show belongs to Roger Reed as Freddy. He is topnotch as the naive, rich, spoiled young man who has crush on Eliza. His tenor voice soars off the charts in "On the Street Where You Live". Valerie Remillard-Myette as Mrs. Pearce displays her lovely voice in the servant's songs. Melanie Souza is fantastic as Henry's sarcastic mother, Mrs. Higgins. She plays the role with the right amount of indignation and feistiness especially funny is the Gavotte scene and her "Bravo Eliza" won many laughs, too. So for a terrific rendition of this classic musical, be sure to catch the talented cast at Ocean State Theatre Company.

"My Fair Lady" (24 September - 19 October)
@ 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, WARWICK RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide