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My Fair Lady at MusicalFare

MusicalFare is taking a double gamble by producing a lavish Golden Age musical during the summer and outside their subscription season. Add to this a challenging score, a newcomer for the leading lady, and a show requiring period costumes.

This becomes possible with a new ten-person, two-piano version of Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady that includes all of the original script and musical numbers. The production, directed by Susan Drozd with choreography by Kristy E. Schupp and music direction by Jason Bravo, will play through August 7.

Based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play, Pygmalion (but with a more sentimental ending than Shaw’s play), My Fair Lady tells the story of a lower class London flower seller who seeks to elevate herself socially by learning to speak upper class English. The plot follows her contentious interactions with her tyrannical mentor, Professor Henry Higgins.

Edie Grossman, who plays Eliza Doolittle, is a recent graduate of Iroquois High School, and boasts a truly lovely voice. Christian Brandjes plays professor Higgins.

Director Drozd reports that the challenge of delivering the scaled down version to the stage largely involved keeping events moving quickly with fewer people and preventing the production from becoming camp. The script requires that several significant female characters appear onstage simultaneously, leaving this intimate version with a gender imbalance. Her solution was to add two interns and to change the sex of one of the minor characters. Voila! My Fair Lady becomes a compelling chamber piece.

Originally produced in 1956 with Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison in the roles, one element of directing the show that Drozd did not anticipate was that younger performers would not really know it.

“How can you not know My Fair Lady? Not even the movie!” she explains, speaking right after the first preview performance. “I had to assure them that certain scenes are actually funny—and then I became nervous. What if the audience doesn’t think the show is funny? Or what if the shocking moments no longer shock an audience?”

Drozd needn’t have worried. The first preview audience laughed and gasped in all the right places.

AVTV: preview of My Fair Lady

AVTV: Anthony Chase interviews Susan Drodz, director of My Fair Lady