Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
My Fair Lady
Also see Rob's recent review of Real Women Have Curves
Just about every song is a gem, and none of them are extraneous. The lyrics are unfailingly clever, and with this show, Alan Jay Lerner takes his place in the pantheon of the wittiest American lyricists, along with Porter, Hart, and Sondheim. Frederic Loewe, the composer, is no slouch either. There are a slew of memorable melodies.
The book, by Lerner, comes from George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion and its 1938 film version (with quite a few alterations, by Shaw and others). It doesn't seem that the story of a London phonetics professor and a Cockney flower seller would have much potential for a musical, but Lerner and Loewe managed to create one of the most enduring stage classics out of it. And they had the guts to avoid a tidy little happy ending.
Most theatergoers know the plot, so I'll just comment on the production, which, like the play, is almost perfect. I don't think you could find a better Eliza and Higgins than Erin Warden and Jack Nuzum. They're total pros, and you would never know that they're American, not English. Erin has a lovely singing voice and is a wonderful actress and dancer too. Jack sing-speaks his way through most of his songs, since they're written that way, but you quickly forget about Rex Harrison. Henry Higgins is pretty much an ass during most of the play (although a self-aware one). Jack doesn't play that down, but still makes him likable, sort of.
Patrick Robinson is a fine Pickering, Gary Bearly is very entertaining as Alfred P. Doolittle (the last name tells you everything about his character), Jocelyn DeHaas is compassionate as Mrs. Pearce the housekeeper, and Jeannie Westwood is "to the manner born" as Mrs. Higgins (and she gets to wear some gorgeous dresses). The other 19 members of the cast do fine work singing, dancing, and acting.
The only disappointment is with what I thought would be the high point: one of the best showtunes ever written, "The Street Where You Live." Throughout the whole song, I kept worrying that Mark Pino might not be able to maintain pitch (I'm not sure that he did), and when he forgot the line "Are there lilac trees in the heart of town," I wondered if he could remember his way through the rest of the lyrics (he did). His acting was quite good, but I'm not sure he should have been entrusted with the most beautiful song in the whole show.
The technical elements are excellent: impressive sets by Dahl Delu (look for the bust of Shaw at the top of the scenery for Henry's living room), terrific costumes by Erin Moots, hard-to-find props by Debra Miller, excellent lighting by Shawn Neilson, and flawless sound by Chad Scheer. Louis and Courtney Giannini have done good work with the choreography. Vicki Singer stage manages a large cast with many costume changes, and everything goes off without a hitch.
The whole complicated production is fluidly and captivatingly directed by Laurie Finnegan. I can't imagine anyone doing a better job of it. Thanks to Myra Cochnar and Louis Giannini, the producers, for not stinting on production values and for being committed to a live orchestra, ably conducted by Darby Fegan.
Over the past several years, Landmark has put on some great shows. My Fair Lady, being the felicitous conjunction of material, cast, direction, and production, is abso-bloomin'-lutely one of their best.
My Fair Lady is being presented by Landmark Musicals at Rodey Theatre in the University of New Mexico Center for the Arts in Albuquerque. Through March 27, 2016. Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 2:00. Additional Saturday 2:00 matinee on March 26. Info at www.landmarkmusicals.org. Tickets are $20-24, and are available through UNM ticket outlets.