Theater Review: My Fair Lady at the Westchester Broadway Theatre, Elmsford, NY
Hudson Valley Magazine’s Poptional Reading blog reviews My Fair Lady, now showing at the Westchester Broadway Theatre (through Nov. 27, 2011 and Dec. 28, 2011-Jan. 29, 2012)
It’s a tale as old as time: Boy meets girl. Boy takes an interest in girl. Boy tries to rid girl of her Cockney accent and pass her off as a Duchess at a society event, thereby changing society’s expectations of her along with the male-female power dynamic of their relationship.
OK, fine, maybe that’s not a tale as old as time, but it’s a tale as old as 1914 at least, when George Bernard Shaw first staged a production of his play, Pygmalion. Lerner and Lowe adapted the play into a smash Broadway musical (changing the ending in the process); director George Cukor turned the musical into a movie (keeping Broadway star Rex Harrison, but swapping Julie Andrews for Audrey Hepburn, who mostly did not do her own singing in the film); and, now, My Fair Lady returns to the stage at the Westchester Broadway Theatre.
Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews, Audrey Hepburn — those are some pretty big shoes to fill. Luckily, the actors hitting the boards at the Westchester Broadway Theatre are up to the task. Jennifer Babiak, who I thought was overshadowed a bit in the WBT’s Jekyll and Hyde, now is in full command as Eliza Doolittle, taking charge of every scene she’s in. Tom Galantich (also from that Jekyll and Hyde production), embodies a full spectrum as Henry Higgins, effortlessly moving from vulnerable to angry. And Bill Dietrich does lots of scene-stealing as Alfred P. Doolittle, who has to handle the lion’s share of the comic relief. It’s not surprising to learn that all three of them have Broadway credits to their names.
The top-notch ensemble gathers for “Ascot Gavotte”
But — with all respect to the actors — the real stars here are the Lerner and Lowe songs, and My Fair Lady is packed with them. Almost every number is a classic: “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “With a Little Bit of Luck,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “On the Street Where You Live,” “Get Me to the Church On Time,” “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face”... the list goes on. In these recessionary times, it’s good to know that your ticket price comes with a slew of musical theater’s best songs, instead of just one or two big hits and a lot of filler. (Then again, if Lerner and Lowe’s very Broadway style doesn’t appeal to you, there isn’t a lot of refuge for you to take in this show.)
To bring life to these songs, the Westchester Broadway Theatre has assembled a top-notch ensemble — from the bigger group numbers, it seems like any of the members of the chorus could’ve been plucked out to be the star. All of the voices were strong, the dancing was lively, and even the songs that don’t make it onto Broadway’s Greatest Hits — “Ascot Gavotte,” anyone? — are made better by the intricate harmonies and interesting staging. (“Ascot Gavotte” had the coolest costumes, too, with everyone dressed in black and white.)
The Westchester Broadway Theatre will run My Fair Lady through November 27. It’ll take a break for Home for the Holidays, then return to the theater from December 28 to January 29. After that, the theater puts on a more rapid-fire schedule of productions, with a new show going up just about every month, so My Fair Lady might be the last show to get such a long run.