Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

My Fair Lady
Olney Theatre Center
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, How I Learned What I Learned and The Sound of Music


Todd Scofield, Brittany Campbell, and
Danny Bernardy

Photo by Stan Barouh
My Fair Lady is one of the most familiar musicals in Broadway history, from its premiere in 1956 through its Oscar-winning 1964 movie version, but director Alan Souza has given it a fascinating rethinking at the Olney Theatre Center in suburban Maryland.

The musical is one of the jewels of Broadway with its literate book by Alan Jay Lerner, drawn largely from the text of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, and Lerner (lyrics) and Frederick Loewe's (music) score of patter songs, bumptious music hall numbers, and soaring melodies. What Souza has done is to present Eliza Doolittle (Brittany Campbell) as outspoken and not easily intimidated, Henry Higgins (Danny Bernardy, imperious but prone to hilarious tantrums) more youthful than is usually seen, and a simmering sense of attraction between the two of them—which doesn't get in the way of the combative relationship between teacher and student. Todd Scofield is a fine Colonel Pickering, smoothing the moments of tension.

Souza and his designers have moved the time from Shaw's 1912 to 1921, when women over 30 were finally able to vote in England (the age didn't decrease to 21 for women until 1928) and were gaining power and prominence in society. This Eliza may dream of comfort and eating chocolates, but she has a spine of steel and knows how things work, as well as a rapturous soprano voice. She's picked up a few useful skills from the way her father, Alfred P. Doolittle (Chris Genebach, delightfully sly and the center of attention whenever he appears), manipulates the system. The other standouts are Benjamin Lurye as a rather nerdy, if ardent, Freddy Eynsford-Hill and Valerie Leonard as both Higgins' witty mother and his long-suffering housekeeper.

Where James Fouchard's scenic design is minimal and more expressionistic than realistic (a large chart of phonetic symbols dominates the wall of Higgins' study), Pei Lee's costume design is specific and vivid. The ladies attending the races at Ascot wear intense colors and eye-popping prints, far from the black-and-white palette familiar from Cecil Beaton's Broadway and movie designs, and this Eliza demonstrates her liberation from Higgins by wearing pants. Max Doolittle's lighting design achieves a freeze-frame effect at important moments through the use of multiple follow spots.

Olney Theatre Center
My Fair Lady
June 21st - July 23rd, 2017
Book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Music by Frederick Loewe
Adapted from the George Bernard Shaw play and Gabriel Pascal's motion picture Pygmalion
Eliza Doolittle: Brittany Campbell
Freddy Eynsford-Hill: Benjamin Lurye
Mrs. Eynsford-Hill: Ashleigh King
Colonel Pickering: Todd Scofield
Professor Henry Higgins: Danny Bernardy
George, the bartender: Jimmy Mavrikes
Jamie: Christopher Mueller
Harry: Warren Freeman
Mrs. Hopkins: Alex Kidder
Mrs. Pearce: Valerie Leonard
Butler: Warren Freeman
Alfred P. Doolittle: Chris Genebach
Charles, the chauffeur: Christopher Mueller
Mrs. Higgins: Valerie Leonard
Lord Boxington: Jimmy Mavrikes
Lady Boxington: Alex Kidder
Professor Zoltan Karpathy: Christopher Mueller
Mrs. Higgins' maid: Christina Kidd
Ensemble: Ian Anthony Coleman, Warren Freeman, Christina Kidd, Alex Kidder, Ashleigh King, Julia Klavans, Jimmy Mavrikes, Christopher Mueller
Directed by Alan Souza
Choreographer: Grady McLeod Bowman
Music director: Christopher Youstra
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD
Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or www.olneytheatre.org


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