“I could have danced all night”. That felt like the sentiment enveloping the audience as the curtain dropped on last night’s performance at Dallas’ Music Hall at Fair Park. It was the second performance of the show’s stop on Broadway Dallas, and nostalgia filled the air as many were singing along to the familiar songs and laughing oh-so-slightly ahead of the famous punchlines. Watching live stage shows of beloved material is always a bit confusing. We usually have actors and voices ingrained in our memories, and it can be a bit uneasy to experience a different style.
The history here dates back to George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 stage play, “Pygmalion”, and how it inspired the 1956 Broadway production (winner of six Tony Awards) starring Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison and the 1964 George Cukor film (winner of eight Oscars) starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison (reprising his stage role). With lyrics by Allan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, most everyone is familiar with the most popular songs … as evidenced by the number of people ‘quietly’ singing along in their seats last evening.
Eliza Doolittle, the cockney flower girl at the center of the story is played here by Madeline Powell. Ms. Powell’s diminutive stature and beautiful red hair put her own twist on the character, and her acting and singing keep us enchanted. It’s really Jonathan Grunert as Professor Henry Higgins that stretches his phonetician character to extremes that some may find more challenging to accept. Rather than the savoir vivre of Rex Harrison, Mr. Grunert brings a frenzied energy to the role that may prevent some from finding any empathy for his plight. On the bright side, his singing was the easiest to hear.
The story involves a wager between Higgins and Colonel Pickering (played here by John Adkison) when Higgins claims he can turn the streetwise Eliza into one who can pass as “a proper lady”. Act 1 is filled with the ‘real’ Eliza and her struggles with the language, as well as segments with her father (Michael Hegarty) and his drinking buddies singing “With a Little Bit of Luck”. Act 2 shows us what happens after “The Rain in Spain”, Eliza’s big breakthrough. All of the familiar songs are performed, including “Why Can’t the English?”, “Wouldn’t it be Loverly?”, the raucous “Get Me to the Church on Time”, and “I Could have Danced all Night”. Easily the best singer featured in the troupe is Cameron Loyal who plays Freddy Eynsford-Hill, the man haplessly taken by Eliza’s ‘slip’ at the horse races.
Based in London in 1912, the tone shifts with the self-congratulatory piece, “You did it!” after the ball, and again with the finale, ““I’ve Grown Accustomed to her Face”. The orchestra was superb, if not a touch too loud, under conductor David Andrews Rogers, and the entertaining production under the direction of Tony-winner Bartlett Sher runs just under 3 hours with intermission.
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“My Fair Lady” runs through November 13, 2022 at Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas