Front Row Center – April 2020

Front Row Center

By Michael Warren


Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Music by Frederick Loewe
Directed by Dave McIntosh

front row


Many of us can remember the Oscar-winning 1965 movie version of this classic musical starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, which was in turn based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1912 play Pygmalion. And this triumphant three-hour show lives up to expectations.

Dave McIntosh used a huge cast and all the tricks of the trade to bring a very slick production to the LLT stage. At the start a piano overture (Robert Thieme) puts us in the mood with some of the familiar tunes from the musical, and then the piano magically disappears! In the opening scene we meet the flower-seller “Eliza Doolittle” played by a very young newcomer Michala Swanson. I confess that I couldn’t understand the cockney dialogue, but Michala was sufficiently charming that it didn’t seem to matter.

The Rex Harrison role of language expert “Professor Henry Higgins” was well played by Brian Fuqua. He brought out the narcissist and misogynist elements of the character, just as Shaw intended. However, perhaps because of his work on TV and commercials, he has a tendency to let his voice drop or to turn away while speaking, so that some of his lines were inaudible.

The songs were well performed, and the staging was spectacular. I particularly enjoyed the Ascot scene, and I have to give special credit to Wardrobe Mistress Johanna Clark. She developed over 125 costumes, and supervised 140 costume changes. I don’t have space to mention the entire cast, so I will just say that the ensemble did a great job and had a lot of fun doing it. Mark Heaton played “Colonel Pickering” with some energy, and Catherine Thieme was suitably homely as “Mrs Pearce” the Higgins’ housekeeper. I enjoyed Rob Stupple as “Alfred Doolittle” who had a good time with the song Get Me To The Church On Time.

I should also give credit to Mark Donaldson, who managed to look and sound like Fred Astaire in the role of “Freddy Eynsford-Hill,” and there was a weird cameo performance by Tom Nussbaum as the strange Hungarian “Zoltan Karpathy.” Also Marsha Heaton was delightfully outspoken as “Mrs Higgins” the mother of Henry Higgins.

The interplay of character between Eliza and Henry Higgins was well performed by both actors. Michala Swanson has a strong soprano voice, and Brian Fuqua came across well in You Did It and especially in his male Hymn to Him. This musical was very cleverly written by Lerner and Loewe. The ending of the story, when Eliza comes back to Higgins, seems disappointing except that we must remember that the play is set in 1912. What other choice did she have?

I congratulate Dave McIntosh and the entire cast and crew for giving us a wonderful evening’s entertainment. Music Direction was by Ann Swiston, and Choreography was by Alexis Hoff and Mary Neill. Win McIntosh was Stage Manager, assisted by Bruce Linnen.

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