I have been eagerly anticipating Signature’s My Fair Lady since seeing Arena’s Cabaret a few short weeks ago. After Molly Smith placed her wide political stamp on that classic musical I wondered if Eric Schaeffer in his last offering at the now famous Garage would put his mark on the equally classic My Fair Lady. I am very happy to say that this fair lady has the Signature stamp and we at DC Theatre Reviews wish to add our stamp of approval as well, bravo!
The Lerner and Loewe adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, a story of class struggle and the joys that a woman brings to the life of a man has been long considered one of the most enjoyable shows in American musical theatre. This My Fair lady gets the recently popular “Two Piano” treatment at Signature’s black box and delivers most of the excitement and pleasure of its bigger and older sibling. With wonderful numbers like “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”’ and the effervescent “The Rain in Spain” My Fair Lady has so many great songs that picking just one as favorite would be futile.
Futile would also be the word to describe any serious attempt to pick a best performance in this show. Andrew Long masterfully delivers a fresh Professor Higgins for our enjoyment and Sally Murphy energizes the part of Eliza with some pretty powerful renditions of “Just You Wait” and “Without You” without the distraction of major production numbers, turning this into the Higgins and Eliza show. Harry A. Winter’s Pickering is a joy to watch and Will Gartshore handles his small but important part with ease, his tenor as always is truly amazing. It is only Terrance P. Currier as Eliza’s father who does not carry his weight and is a bit of a disappointment.
Another dazzler is the fantastic set that is often jam packed with the cast, but always seemed perfectly designed and extremely functional. Floor to ceiling columns with Victorian appointments and fabric panel backgrounds that reveal the cast at various points of the production serve the designer well. The sound design receives high marks for originality with the sounds of clicking hooves pre-show and the clatter of the same hooves created by the cane tapping cast during the Ascot races. The costume design is uneven, while I loved the wonderful dresses and fabulous hats especially Eliza’s beautiful black and white ball gown, I was annoyed by the sleeveless formal wear for the male chorus. Equally disappointing was the bright neon purple lighting that adorned the stage during the ball scene.
The highlights of My Fair Lady are its simply gorgeous songs and the fabulous wordplay between the memorable characters. Signature’s lady provides all of that and a fresh take on Higgins and Eliza that proves not only engaging but successful as well. A trip to say your farewells to Signature’s current space and to witness a truly satisfying My Fair Lady should be at the top of your list in October. As always I advise not waiting too long to grab a set of tickets because they are bound to become very hard to come by.
September 26 – November 19, 2006 3806 S Four Mile Run Drive Arlington VA 22206 703-820-9771 www.signature-theatre.org Music by Frederick Loewe. Book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. Directed by Eric Schaeffer.