Theatre Mirror Reviews - "My Fair Lady"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2008 by Tony Annicone

"My Fair Lady"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at the Granite Theatre is Lerner & Lowe's famous musical, "My Fair Lady" which first opened on Broadway in 1956. 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 you entertained all night long with its multitalented cast, fast moving pace, easy set changes, excellent direction and musical direction.

The huge musical is directed splendidly by David Jepson. This man knows how to block and direct a show, always obtaining the best results from his hard working cast. He also designed and built a two story set for Higgins study including a staircase as well as large columns, a free standing doorway and other numerous set pieces. His wife, Beth is not only the stage manager but she and Paula Pendola made the multitude of gorgeous gowns and costumes for the cast. (Especially impressive are all of Eliza's gowns when she finally becomes a lady.) The show is musically directed by Audrey Kaiser who is one of the best musical directors and pianist around this area. Her intricate harmonies on the choral numbers flows forth over the audience as they drink in the melodic sounds from her vocalists. Lisa Clough who also appears in the show, choreographed it. She creates some upbeat dances for "With a Little Bit of Luck" including a polka as well as the energetic, breathtaking "Get Me to the Church", a tango for "The Rain in Spain" and a soft shoe for "Loverly". The tech director for the show is Tai Scavetta who keeps the show well lit and also handles the many sound cues in the show.

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 can 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 Rochelle Weinrauch, a pretty young brunette, (her mother calls her Chelle my Belle) although she makes her debut at the Granite, she is no stranger to theatre having appeared at the Cape Rep Theatre in numerous roles. Her glorious soprano voice can be heard in "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" backed up by topnotch harmony, as well as the exuberant "I Could Have Danced All Night" when her crush on Higgins is revealed, when she learns how to speak like a lady in the trio of "Rain in Spain" and in three angry songs, "Just You Wait", "Show Me" and "Without You". (The latter one is very melodic.) Her entrance in her gorgeous ball gown is breathtaking as is her entrance in the final scene to close the show. Brava. Higgins right hand man, Colonel Hugh Pickering is played with gusto by Frank Pendola. He plays a stodgy older man who treats Eliza respectfully (he gets many laughs in this role while having played the serious role of Tevye in "Fiddler" last season.) Franks shows off his strong singing voice in "Rain in Spain" and especially in "You Did It" while he gives the role the needed energy and comic timing to pull it off"

Another comic performance and the biggest scene stealer in this show is Arthur Pignataro, a veteran actor who plays Alfie P. Doolittle. The character is always drunk and he gets to show off his excellent timing as well as strong singing voice in "Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me to the Church" which turn into chorus singing and dancing extravaganzas. His two energetic drinking cronies are played by Chris Maxwell and John Alfiero who sing and dance up a storm in this show. (Other hardworking chorus members include John Cillino, Chantal Gagnon (who I directed in "Caught in the Net" in 2004) Matthew Royality-Lindman, Grace Rezendes, Shayna Weinrauch and Francesca Wish) Another outstanding voice in this show belongs to Sabatino Giordano (who looks like a matinee idol and should be doing commercial work in New York on TV) He plays Eliza's love interest, Freddy who becomes captivated by her beauty and witty talk of the day at the Ascot scene which is hilarious. His rendition of "On the Street Where You Live" stops the show with its power and intensity and his acting as the naive, rich spoiled young man is perfect, too. ( I first saw Sabatino as a young performer at Hendricken and have watched him and his vocal prowess grow into a twenty year old man with an excellent voice and stage presence. I also reviewed him there in "Songs for a New World".) Carolyn Trebisacci plays his worry wart mother and another scene stealer is Patricia Spencer Smith as Higgin's mother. She plays it with the right amount of feistiness and comic timing. Last but not least is Maria Sepe Tavarozzi as Mrs. Pearce, Higgins maid who leads the servant chorus with her magnificent soprano voice. So for a fabulous trip back to London in the early 1900's, be sure to catch "My Fair Lady" at the Granite Theatre in Westerly. You'll be glad you did.

"My Fair Lady" 10 October - 16 November)
1 Granite Street, WESTERLY RI
1 (401)596-2341

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide