Theatre Review by Sarah Frye
Rating 4 out of 4
The Lyric Opera of Chicago continues their Broadway at Lyric series with the always ebullient My Fair Lady starring Richard E. Grant and Lisa O’Hare. This particular production is the American premiere of a new production of the musical by Lerner and Loewe. My Fair Lady is the fifth production in the Broadway at Lyric series with past performances featuring Carousel, The Sound of Music, The King and I, and Oklahoma!.
As is the case with most of the Lyric’s productions, My Fair Lady is presented on a massive scale with grand sets that fill up the stage and theater. Every item appears carefully curated to present the gutter snipe world of Eliza to the high society world of Henry Higgins. The scenery is awash in shades of white, allowing the colors of the characters to shine through. Outside of Professor Higgins’ office and library, most of the sets are fairly sparse in décor even though they are grand in scale and don’t distract from the acting.
The story centers on Eliza Doolittle as a flower seller on the streets of London and Professor Henry Higgins who believes he can take Eliza’s Cockney accent and turn her into a sophisticated lady in a few months time. Along for the ride is Colonel Pickering who bets that Higgins cannot pull off such a feat and bankrolls the project. The final test to see if Eliza passes is the Embassy Ball which culminates in the first act. Grant and O’Hare revel in their roles as Higgins and Doolittle. O’Hare perfectly captured both the Cockney accent as well as the refined voice of a lady with ease. Linguistics plays a central role in the musical and each character more than rises to the occasion. From Eliza’s scrappy and unsophisticated friends and father to the upper class ladies and gents, each character is played to perfection.
Wrapping up the entire production in a wonderful bow is the head bopping and toe tapping music that we’re all familiar with. From “Just You Wait” and “I Could Have Danced All Night” to “On the Street Where You Live” and “You Did It”; the voices of the actors harmoniously blended together for more than one hair-raising reaction. Bryce Pinkham excels in the endearing role of Freddy Eynsford-Hill. You can’t help but root for Freddy due to Pinkham’s portrayal of Eliza’s fleeting love interest. Choreographer Lynne Page weaves in everyday movements that perfectly fit the music and story. Subtle reactions and movements could easily have come from you or I in the same moments of excitement, joy, anger and despair. Page’s most spectacular work comes during “Get Me to the Church on Time’s” drunken escapades.
My Fair Lady is appropriate for all ages and it was wonderful to see such a diverse age group of individuals at the opera house. I have several dance students who are ecstatic about seeing the show. You’ll easily find yourself singing along and can’t help but dance around in your seat. As Eliza puts it- just you wait!
My Fair Lady runs April 28-May 21 at the Lyric Opera. For more information, including tickets, visit www.lyricopera.org/myfairlady or call 312-827-5600.