Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Also see Zander's review of Spring Awakening
On March 18th, I had the great pleasure of seeing the New Haven Symphony Pops Orchestra present a concert version of My Fair Lady at the Hamden Middle School in Hamden, CT. Pops conductor Chelsea Tipton led the orchestra superbly and director Wendy Morgan-Hunter did a good job staging the concert. While it would have been nice to have a little bit more of the book performed (the concert was mostly just the score being sung, with minimal dialogue and a narrator filling the audience in about what was going on in between the songs), this concert was still breezy entertainment, with superlative performances by all of the actors.
In the plum role of Henry Higgins, the excellent Gary Harger was able to make one nearly forget the memory of Rex Harrison, as he sang his numbers in a rich tenor voice. Such songs as "Why Can't the English?" and "A Hymn for Him" were a delight, and Harger really came into his own in the climactic "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." This actor was so strong in the presentation that one longed to see him perform a more vocally challenging role in the future.
Also shining brightly was Lisa Williamson as Eliza Doolittle. If her Cockney accent wasn't always consistent, she delivered Eliza's songs beautifully, in sometimes near-operatic tones. This is not to say that she over-sang the music, just that she brought a powerful singing voice to the songs, delivering particularly thrilling renditions of "I Could Have Danced All Night" and "Wouldn't It Be Loverly." Williamson was also quite good in her acting and she had a fine time fighting off the character of Freddie Eynsford-Hill in a stunning "Show Me." What was also nice was that this actress was able to wear a gorgeous sequined gown for the occasion of Eliza going to the Embassy Ball.
As Freddie Eynsford-Hill, Charlie Widmer was pretty great, singing an especially gorgeous "On the Street Where You Live." Widmer also took on various other small roles, as needed. Playing two roles was the mischievous George McTyre, who did justice to both Colonel Pickering and Alfred Doolittle. In the latter role, he shone in "With a Little Bit of Luck" and the infectious "Get Me to the Church on Time." As the narrator, Michael Constantino did a fine job of describing the plot to the audience. And, like Widmer, Constantino also played incidental parts in the show.
This My Fair Lady was performed concert style, with the men in tuxedos, and the cast sat in chairs onstage in when they weren't performing a number. In some ways, this concert production harked back to the early years of the City Center Encores! concerts in New York City. The New Haven Symphony Pops Orchestra played Frederick Loewe's classic music gloriously and the actors had a good time singing Alan Jay Lerner's intricate, witty lyrics. The score of My Fair Lady is always wonderful to hear, as it proved to be in this fanciful and deeply satisfying concert presentation. The only downside was that it was only performed for one weekend.
For more information about the New Haven Symphony Orchestra's upcoming series of concerts, please visit www.newhavensymphony.org.