By Beki Pineda
MY FAIR LADY – Book and Lyrics by Alan Lerner; Music by Frederick Loewe; Directed by Bartlett Sher. Produced by Troika Entertainment, LTC (Presented by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Broadway at the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis, Denver) through November 17. Tickets available at 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org.
There are many lovely things about this production. To name a few, the costumes designed by Catherine Zubar are spectacular. Shades of pink for the Ascot Races, glamourous dancing gowns for the Embassy Ball, Mrs. Higgins’ day dresses were flattering, and Eliza’s slow evolution to style was well documented. The lighting design by Donald Holder made effective use of silhouettes and shadows to create lovely scene changes; the lights behind Higgins’ study as it moved to the forefront of the stage were startling to watch evolve The choreography by Christopher Gattelli gave us the elegant Embassy Waltz, the raucous and naughty “Get Me to the Church on Time” and the stately “Ascot Gavotte” which consisted of slow turns, cocked heads and arched backs in total sync.
One truly accomplished piece of sound design by Matt Salzberg and Beth Lake was during the Ascot races when the audience was treated to the sound of the horses running behind them from house left to house right as the spectators on stage slowly pivoted following the sound of the horses. Loverly!
The ensemble’s work was incredible to observe. Various cast members moved in sync to the interlude music to create well-choreographed scene changes that did not interrupt, but rather enhanced the flow of the production. The ensemble actors changed costumes and characters with ease providing a full complement of Tottenham Court residents, Ascot “revelers” and pub dancers. There was a satisfying balance of ages with older members in the cast each getting a moment or two in the spotlight. Those longing for an old-fashioned overture will get a taste of the familiar music performed by the excellent Fair Lady orchestra.
The performance by Jonathan Grunert as Professor Higgins gained strength and masculine “charm” as he went on. The role of Colonel Pickering, played by John Adkison, was given a little more heft in this production with Mr. Adkison taking on the added responsibility with ease. Michael Hegarty gave Alfred Doolittle, Eliza’s father, a robust, intelligent, down-to-earth character and regaled the audience with his physical sense of humor and witty aphorisms. The character of Mrs. Pearce, Higgins’ house keeper, by Madeline Brennan was given strength, calm, and patience.
But all of this elegance and raucousness is for naught if you can’t love Eliza from her first Cockney “Eeooww”. It was very hard to warm to Madeline Powell as Eliza. In the first scene outside Covent Garden, her accent was SO thick (how thick was it?) that a first-time viewer would not have been able to understand what was happening. So thick that I seriously thought there was something wrong with her mic. There was a pinched quality to her face, a stiffness to her shoulders that made me think she was upset all the way through or nervous for some reason. She has a beautiful but massive head of strawberry blonde hair that seemed to be constantly verging on being out of control. She paced relentlessly when there was no reason to move. Maybe it was just the night. She was probably relaxed and perfect the next night. but I didn’t get to see the next night.
It was evident that the audience at large greatly enjoyed the evening. And that’s what counts.
A WOW factor of 8.5!