MTG production of My Fair Lady is solidly entertaining
MY FAIR LADY
Musical Theatre Guild.
Directed by Erik Schwartz '86.
November 9 and 11 at 8 pm,
and November 10 at 2 pm.
By MICHELLE P. PERRY
MY FAIR LADY IS AN OLD standby of high school and college musical groups, and the familiar title drew a large crowd in Kresge Auditorium Friday night. Opening night jitters aside, the Musical Theatre Guild gave a very solid performance, with both good singing and surprisingly good acting.
My Fair Lady is adapted from George Bernard Shaw's stage play and Gabriel Pascal's motion picture, Pygmalion. Henry Higgins, a professor of linguistics, makes a bet with Col. Hugh Pickering, a fellow linguist, that he can take a squawking flower girl off the streets of London and in six months pass her off as a lady at the Embassy Ball. His subject, Eliza Doolittle, moves into his home and is subjected to intensive vocal training, as well as considerably rude behavior from Higgins. The usual love/hate conflicts follow, but with an ending which is surprisingly different than the screen version of the play.
One woman who easily commands a stage on her own is Heather Hays '92, who plays Eliza Doolittle. Hays is as saucy and energetic as the role demands. Her lovely, clear, expressive singing voice is well displayed in amusing numbers such as "Just You Wait," in which she elucidates all the horrible things she would like to do or have done to her tormentor. Hays also displays strong acting skills. One of her many funny moments is when Eliza, trying her best to act the lady at the opening race at Ascot, blows her cover by shouting, "Come on, Dover, move your bloomin' ass!"
Hays is well matched by Nelson Scharfman as Henry Higgins. Scharfman performs with a larger-than-life style which suits his character perfectly. Despite his harsh treatment of Eliza, the audience retains its sympathy towards Henry, an accomplishment for which Sharfman deserves full credit. Another amusing number is "A Hymn to Him," in which Higgins asks the question, "Why can't women be more like men?"
Other good performances include Robert DeVivo C as Pickering, Dan Henderson '91 as Freddy Eynsford-Hill, and Janet Ann Licini '92 as Lady Boxington.
The small dance numbers were choreographed with a sense of humor and were executed nicely. The ensemble dance numbers seemed a bit tense, and there were more than a few missteps. Hopefully the cast will relax a bit and enjoy what could potentially be very nice pieces.
Some technical aspects of the production detract from the actors' fine performances. The awkward, unattractive sets seem designed simply to fill up space. The pieces are oversized in relation to the actors occupying them, and their massiveness results in long set changes. Fill music provided by the orchestra often runs out before the sets are in place. Worse, pieces of the set occasionally did not function properly, causing a few awkward moments for the crew.
Lighting also was not well thought out. The set was basically flooded with light, with an occasional spotlight added to no noticeable effect. Near the end of the final act, shadows of the orchestra conductor's hands were accidentally cast upon the ceiling, giving an annoying impression of overhead movement.
The performance runs over three hours. It started late because of technical problems and was drawn out by long set changes and an excessively long intermission. Hopefully things will tighten up as their run continues. The technical problems are unfortunate because they detract from the efforts of the cast, but overall, MTG's My Fair Lady is a very entertaining and well-performed show.