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I just saw the show on Thursday (mild spoilers, then major spoilers)
Posted by: mikem 09:43 am EST 02/09/19
In reply to: Where is the best seat(s) for My Fair LADY? - bmc 03:52 am EST 02/09/19

I just saw the show on Thursday and was looking at what seats might be best for a potential return visit. I don't think there is any major, lengthy obstruction in the 200-400 orchestra sections. There is a table that goes up for a brief time at the 100/200 edge in I'm Getting Married in the Morning, but it would only affect you in the first few rows, I think. For 100/500, it looks like the first two rows are within the proscenium; farther back, and you might get some obstruction but there isn't much happening very far upstage so I'm not sure how bad it would be. In general, the actors stay behind roughly the first three to four seats in the 100/500 sections; sitting closer to the stage might mean backs during some scenes, although the Higgins house is completely behind almost all the seating.

Except for that table, there are no major set pieces that are at the lip of the stage for extended periods of time that I recall. There are moments when sightlines are blocked by downstage actors, but just moments.

If you have to get the extreme sides farther back, I think being able to see stage left/audience right would be more important. The Higgins house entrance is on that side.

(major spoilers coming)

As for the show itself, I've seen it three times now, with three different leading ladies: Lauren Ambrose, Kirsten Anderson, and Laura Benanti. Benanti's take is very different from Ambrose's. With Ambrose (and presumably Sher's original vision), it was a Very. Serious. Musical. Ambrose's Eliza was very weighted down by the woes of her circumstances and the chains placed on her by society. Benanti really plays up the comedy in musical comedy. She is extremely funny in the first act, and her singing is beautiful and effortless. But the emphasis in the first act is on the comedy and singing, and the show feels very light, which is both good and bad. Harry Hadden-Paton and Allan Corduner are also much broader in the first act than previously, looking for laughs (and getting them). It's very entertaining, but doesn't feel very substantive. Benanti's Eliza is pretty tough, and there doesn't seem much at stake.

During the second act, Benanti tamps down the comedy (while still having funny moments) and shows her vulnerability, and this act is where I feel that she really showed why she is one of the best in the business. She has tears silently coming down her face while Higgins and Pickering are celebrating "their" triumph after the ball. During the second act, she is wounded and hurt, but also with inner strength. She is the driver of her own fate. Her Without You is so full of realization and strength that the final coda scene seems superfluous and a tacked-on throwaway. There is no question that she is not coming back. She already showed us in the previous scene that she realizes she doesn't need to rely on Higgins, or anyone, to be the person she wants to be.

I thought that Ambrose's Eliza had no romantic interest in Higgins, but Benanti's REALLY does not have any romantic chemistry with Higgins at all, which is another reason why the coda seemed pointless.

Harry Hadden-Paton was always good, but he has gotten better and better over time and is really outstanding now. I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face has really grown and he really takes us on a journey of self-realization. His current Higgins is less mean than originally. The softer Higgins makes his self-realization more plausible, but it contributes to the squishy feeling of the current first act.

Christian Dante White brings a goofy, boy-ish charm to Freddy, who badly needs some kind of personality. The original actor had a beautiful voice, but didn't have that same kind of outsize energy. The Freddy-Eliza relationship is much more interesting now.

Rosemary Harris has more gravitas than Diana Rigg, and has much more impact.

Danny Burstein is extremely talented, but he is even more American in the role than Norbert Leo Butz, which I didn't think was possible. Between Benanti and Burstein, the Doolittles seem to have been dropped into London by way of current-day New York. Both of their accents are all over the place, which doesn't help. I think Burstein can dance, but his dance atop the table in I'm Getting Married was extremely underwhelming and hurt the arc of the number. He almost dropped his hat very early while up on the table, and I don't know if that threw him. The steps seem really simple - I don't know if they are actually different than with Butz or if Burstein just seemed less showy.

Now that the emphasis is not on The Message, the show feels more like a grand old time. And the replacements are great. Benanti, Burstein, and Harris have a combined total of TWENTY Tony nominations. When was the last time a show had a replacement cast with that kind of pedigree?

(And what's up with Burstein having two Drama Desks and three Outer Critics Circle Awards, and zero Tonys?)
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