Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
My Fair Lady
My Fair Lady lives or dies on the quality of its Eliza and Henry Higgins. The roles are not easy to cast; I have seen productions where the leads were simply not up to the demands of the parts. The two best leads I have ever seen were in the same production, a National Theater of Great Britain production which toured major musical houses in the US, produced by Cameron Mackintosh and directed by Trevor Nunn. Christopher Cazenove and Lisa O'Hare were the leads. The roles At Asolo Repertory Theater are taken by Andrea Prestinario as Eliza Doolittle and Jeff Parker as Henry Higgins. Both are quite good. Ms. Prestinario joins this production from a run in the same part at Paramount Theater in Chicago, and her experience in the role is a definite plus. Some Elizas are stronger as the Cockney flower girl or as the lady she becomes. Ms. Prestinario is able to play the role as a continuum, moving gradually from one to the other, with reminders of her spitfire past showing through her lady's demeanor. Mr. Parker is an unusual Henry Higginsthe usual bluster is present, but there is a strong undercurrent of romantic leading man. At one point the idea was floated to have Cary Grant play the role in the movie version, and I think Mr. Parker suggests how Mr. Grant might have played the role. Other assets in the company include Andrew Boyer as Alfred P. Doolittle, Sean Effinger-Dean as Freddy Eynsford-Hill, Joel Hatch as Col. Pickering and Rob Lindley, Daniel Schwab, Bryan Torfeh and Robert David May as the four Cockneys who assist Eliza in "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?". In fact, all of the supporting roles are well taken and add much to the buoyancy of the production.
Frank Galati's direction is one of the strongest pieces of this production, showing a clear vision of character and character relationships. He also keeps the action moving along, assisted by Joshua Rhodes as choreographer, and the set design of Russell Metheny. The costumes by Mara Blumenfeld are outstanding. Eliza's yellow ensemble for the Ascot scene and several other outfits are just gorgeous. The musical end of things is in the hands of Doug Peck at Piano 1 and Ian Weinberger at Piano 2.
I highly recommend that anyone who has never seen My Fair Lady on stage and anyone who loves musicals rush to Asolo Repertory Theater's production before it has packed up and gone.
Asolo Repertory Theater presents My Fair Lady through December 23, 2011, at the Mertz Theater in the FSU Center. 5555 N. Tamiami Trail. Sarasota, Florida. Box Office (941) 351-8000. For more information visit www.asolorep.org.