My Fair Lady, adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s 1912 play Pygmalion, and with a book and score by Lerner and Loewe, centers on Eliza Doolittle (Jessica Wagner), a London flower peddler who agrees to take speech lessons from the officious professor Henry Higgins (Richard Costa).
Higgins lets Eliza stay in his home while he teaches her proper decorum in order to fit into English society. In the process, Higgins laments why “a woman can’t be more like a man” in the song, “Hymn to Him.”
However, Eliza turns out to be a strong-willed woman who refuses to be treated as an object.
The success of My Fair Lady is due largely to the capabilities and charisma of the lead performers.
Wagner has a spectacular voice and hit all the right notes in the numbers, “Just You Wait,” “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” and “Show Me.” She also provided the right amount of grit and feisty attitude for Eliza. In the show’s second half, she is quite effective at conveying Eliza’s uncertainty about her future, as well as her fury at Higgins’ rampant sexism.
Costa is a stellar performer who brought a lot of depth and dimension to Higgins. His best moments are in the songs, “The Rain in Spain” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.”
The supporting performances were also excellent, especially Todd Berkich as Colonel Pickering, Roger Reed as Freddy, Valerie Remillard Myette as Mrs. Pearce, Melanie Souza as Mrs. Higgins, and Peter Tedeschi as Eliza’s father, Alfred P. Doolittle, who sings “Get Me to the Church on Time.”
Director and choreographer Amiee Turner has crafted a stylish and engaging show that never loses sight of the dramatic conflict at the story’s core: a woman who is struggling to find her own special place in the world.
Musical director Esther Zabinski conducted a fantastic orchestra, which perfectly complemented the action on stage.
The scenic design by Clifton Chadick, the lighting design by David A. Sexton, and the costume design by Brian Horton, were also dazzling. This is a good-looking production and a feast for the eyes as well as the ears.
My Fair Lady is a satisfying musical journey and is worth the trip to the theater.
My Fair Lady at Ocean State Theatre through October 19. The theater is located at 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick. Tickets are available online 24 hours a day at OceanStateTheatre.org and via telephone during normal box office hours by calling (401) 921-6800.