Friday, July 12, 2024

MADAMA BUTTERFLY – REVIEW OF 2024 AIX-EN-PROVINCE FESTIVAL PRODUCTION

Reviewed by James Karas                                                            

The Aix-en-Provence Festival is in full swing (July 3 to 23, 2024) offering an eclectic selection of operas and other musical entertainments in the gorgeous weather and in the beautiful medieval city in southern France after which it is named.

Puccini’s Madama Butterfly is one the selections from the standard repertoire that gets an idiosyncratic production by German director Andrea Breth. Some of her choices appear inspired, others arbitrary and some simply confusing.

First the singers. The big drawing card is Ermonela Jaho, the Albanian soprano with the luscious and big soprano voice. She gave her all as Cio-Cio San (Madama Butterfly), the 15-year-old Japanese girl who falls in love with and marries B. F. Pinkerton, a swaggering and irresponsible American naval officer. Jaho manages a lovely tremolo to express tenderness and love. And oh, the longing in “Un bel di vedremo” when she imagines the return of Pinkerton’s ship in the harbour, his climb up the hill and her delirious happiness. We know that he spent one night with her and disappeared for three years, and she had his baby.

Jaho is about 50 years old, and she has been singing for more than 30 years. But she did not disappoint. From the happy child bride to the determined and faithful American wife and finally the crushed human being she played our emotional strings like a virtuoso. In the final moment of the opera when the orchestra played the last beat, Madama Butterfly’s head dropped, and she collapsed dead. The audience gasped, the lights went out and we jumped to our feet in a standing ovation.

Pinkerton is one of the most odious characters in opera and British tenor Adam Smith does a good job with his stentorian voice. But he tries too hard to reach his high notes and his voice becomes harsh and in fact cracks a couple of times. He is otherwise fine. He wears a suit in the opening scene but does put on a navy jacket in the end. The fact that he is a naval officer emphasizes his disgusting conduct and there is no reason for the singer not to appear in all his glory in that outfit.

Decency is represented by Sharpless, the American consul, sung by Belgian baritone Lionel Lhote. He must maneuver between his compatriot’s evil and the innocent Butterfly with vocal steadfastness and moral equanimity. We like what the character does and how Lhote achieves it.

Madame Butterfly, Aix-en-Provence Festival 2024 (c) Ruth Walz

Japanese mezzo soprano Mihoko Fujimura’s performance as Suzuki is praiseworthy. She is Butterfly’s maid who is not divorced from reality as Butterfly is. Admirable work by Fujimura.  Italian tenor Carlo Bosi’s looked and acted like an American real estate agent but he sang well and his characterization enhanced the role. In short, the production had a fine cast. 

Now for some unfriendly comments about Breth’s handling of the plot. Whenever Breth could choose between static and kinetic she opted for the motionless. There are opportunities for the singers to move around but Breth tries to restrict such luxuries. What she does do is have characters walk on and off the stage for no explicable reason. They slowly shuffle or are brought on by a rotating conveyor belt. I could not figure out what they were doing,

When Pinkerton’s ship arrives in the harbour, we see a man holding the small replica of a ship in his hand while the revolving conveyor belt brings him around. Other characters less obviously do the same. Are they figments of Butterfly’s imagination? Are we watching a psychodrama about her imagination? In other words what is going on?

Breth and Set Designer Raimund Orfeo Voigt want the action to take place in an enclosed area. That is an acceptable approach, but the area is separated from the audience by upright girders. These frequently block the face of the singer and that is annoying. Did no one notice this unnecessary nuisance which increases in intensity every time a performer’s face is blocked? The production gains nothing by telling us that all action takes place in an  enclosed space. All else about the set design is fine.

A final bow and standing ovation are due to the Choir and Orchestra of the Opéra national de Lyon led by the master conductor Daniele Rustioni.
_______________
Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini continues in repertory until July 22, 2024, at the Théâtre de l'Archevêché, Aix-en-Provence, France  https://festival-aix.com/fr

James Karas is the Senior Editor, Culture of The Greek Press 

Friday, July 5, 2024

THE HOUSE THAT WILL NOT STAND – REVIEW OF 2024 SHAW FESTIVAL PRODUCTION

Reviewed by James Karas

The House That Will Not Stand is a play by Marcus Gardley about the fate of women of colour in Louisiana in 1813. The date is important because that is when France transferred the territory to the United States. Women of colour were relatively well off under French jurisdiction. Some were part of the plaçage where a woman of colour could become the concubine of a white man and even marry one and live much better than slaves. The system was complicated, and I am in no position to explain it fully. 

Gardley’s 2014 play deals with Beartrice Albans (Monica Parks) a plaçage whose wealthy white husband has just died leaving her, and her three daughters as well as their Negro servant with an uncertain future under the American system.

When the play opens in the Jackie Maxwell Studio, we see a man lying dead and a well-dressed woman entering the stage laughing her head off. The dead man in Beartrice’ s lover Lazare and the laughing woman is La Veuve (Nehassaiu deGannes). Beartrice is concerned about her position, the future of her three daughters and perhaps the slave Mikeda (Sophia Walker). The latter is a hyperkinetic and comic person who claims that she is a diviner and is able to have the soul of Lazare transferred to her.

The real concern, as I said, is the future of her daughters and the question is can they find decent plaçage positions for them. There is great ball where young girls go accompanied by their mother and seek a good placement. The daughters Agnès (Deborah Castrilli), Maude-Lynn (Rais Clarke-Mendes) and Odette (Ryann Myers), plot to find a way of going to the great ball against their mother’s wishes in search of their fortune.

 (l to r): Rais Clarke-Mendes, Ryann Myers and Deborah Castrilli 
in The House That Will Not Stand. Photo by David Cooper.

In the meantime, Makeda practices her voodoo and claims (not seriously) that Lazare’s spirit has entered her. No everybody believes that.

The central issue and pursuit is freedom. For Beartrice it is the search for a paper signed by her “owner” grating her freedom. Her daughters need to find a wealthy man to give them plaçage in all its variations. After all that is the purpose of the ball, a kind of shopping mall for young women that is not entirely clear. Makeda is perhaps more eager for freedom because she is a slave. The daughters argue and scheme for a placement and one of them finds one only to lose him when one of her sisters takes him away from her.

In the end Makeda gives up her savings for Beartrice to buy the house and subsequently grant Makeda her freedom.

The play has seven characters, all women except for Lazare who is a dead man.

Louisiana in 1803 presents a fascinating historical moment. Some of the details ae abstruse and difficult to explain in a play and the position of women of colour (and there are gradations) and their treatment by the French and uncertainty and fear of what awaits them under the Americans cannot be made clear because of its complexity.

The play takes place during a 24-hour period on a Sunday in Faubourg Treme, New Orleans, Louisiana. Gardley tackled a great and complicated subject that needs more details and substance. As presented it did not engage me and what is worse by the time it reached the final curtain, I started wondering who and why the play was chosen in the first place.

In Philip Akin it has one of the best directors around and one cannot complain about the quality of the acting despite the muddled script. The Huse That Will Not Stand has been produced by university theatres and professional groups including off Broadway, but it does not seem to have received a major staging anywhere. Even the Shaw Festival is producing it in the small Studio Theatre. A disappointment.
­­­­­_____________
The House That Will Not Stand by Marcus Gardley will run in repertory until October 12, 2024, at the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre as part of the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.  www.shawfest.com.

James Karas is the Senior Editor, Culture of The Greek Press.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS – REVIEW OF 2024 SHAW FESTIVAL PRODUCTION

Reviewed by James Karas 

One Man, To Guvnors as staged by the Shaw Festival should be considered an unstoppable, laugh-producing machine. Yes, it is Richard Bean’s adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters and if you look hard enough you will find connections. But who cares and who has the time to look for them.

The production has a master director in Chris Abraham who can turn a simple look, and innocuous movement and a simple sentence into a guffaw, the actors know when to pause, look askance at another performer or the audience, do a pratfall or many pratfalls and produce farcical moves and manners that produce nothing but laughter.

You do need a master farceur like Peter Fernandes as the servant Francis Henshall who is fast of speech, quick of foot and able to get roars of laughter by involving members of the audience. Fernandes is not a small man, but he contorts his body, speaks asides and has a love relationship with the audience that gives him the power to make us laugh.

Get a pratfall star like Matt Alfano as Alfie who makes the audience scream with fear and laughter at his actions. Alfie is supposed to be a doddering waiter who can barely walk. He walks or falls into walls, falls down the stairs, is punched and engages in physical comedy of extraordinary proportions. Alfano is a young athlete and can do almost miraculous moves.

A bit of background.  Goldoni wrote The Servant of Two Masters in 1746 within the tradition of commedia dell’arte. In that that tradition he used stock characters, convoluted plots and physical comedy. He opposed the traditional fashion where actors who specialized in certain roles improvised much of their acting. He insisted that they follow the plot. 

Peter Fernandes as Francis Henshall and Martin 
Happer as Stanley Stubbers. Photo by David Cooper.

Richard Bean’s adaptation takes place in Brighton, England in 1963 instead of Venice and he is reasonably faithful to some of the commedia dell’arte traditions but with a script that must be followed. You will not give a hoot about any of this as you roar with laughter.

Here are a few points about the plot and if you don’t remember any of them, don’t worry about it. More important are the names of the performers whom I want to praise Henshall was the servant of Roscoe Crabbe who is dead. Roscoe’s sister Rachel (Fiona Byrne in a suit) shows up in Brighton disguised as her twin, Roscoe, to claim a pile of dowry money from mobster Charlie Clench (the inimitable Tom Rooney). Roscoe and Clench’s daughter Pauline (Jade Repeta) were to be engaged but he was killed by Stanley (an impressive Martin Happer) who happened to be Rachel’s boyfriend. Are you still with me? 

In the meantime, Pauline wants to marry dufus actor Alan Dangle (Andre Morin) the son of the crooked lawyer Harry Dangle (Patrick Galligan). Furthermore, Francis has his eye and much more on busty Dolly (hilarious Kiera Sangster) who is Clench’s bookkeeper. But He is also hungry and broke and gets the chance to work for Stanley and complications ensue. Don’t forget Allan Louis as Lloyd, a man who knows people from Brixton prison. He and Clench are former prison inmates. All of this and much more will keep you laughing for about two and a half hours. 

I had to mention all the actors to compliment and praise them for their outstanding work.

Chris Abraham choreographs the whole show with meticulous attention and an unfailing feel for the laugh he can evoke from the most unlikely line, look, move, action or reaction. It is a show made for laughs and it succeeds superbly.

________________

One Man, Two Guvnors by Richard Bean based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni continues until October 13, 2024, as part of the Shaw Festival in the Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.  www.shawfest.com.

 James Karas is the Senior Editor, Culture of The Greek Press

Monday, June 24, 2024

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE – REVIEW OF 2024 SOULPEPPER PRODUCTION

Reviewed by James Karas

Soulpepper has very wisely decided to revive its 2019 production of Tennessee Williams’ great play with almost the same cast.

The production is an undeniably superb staging owing to the bravura’s performance of Amy Rutherford as Blanche Dubois. Rutherford faces a character that is fragile, mendacious, egotistical, and trying desperately to conceal the fact that she is at the end of her rope. She has the fading beauty of Blanche, downs alcoholic drinks while pretending not to drink much if at all and wants to be admired for her clothes and her beauty regardless of reality.

Rutherford’s Blanche goes to extremes to appear sophisticated, cultured and a woman of refined tastes who looks down on everyone especially her sister Stella’s lifestyle and the manners of her husband, the “Pollack” Stanly Kowalski. The truth about her life, her lies and the depravity to which she has sunk, come creeping on her until they destroy her.

Rutherford brings out the deteriorating physical appearance, the mannerisms and the body language that define Blanche perfectly in a brilliant and unforgettable  performance. 

Stanley Kowalski played by Mac Fyfe, Blanche DuBois played by 
Amy Rutherford, and Stella Kowalski played by Shakura Dickson. 
Photo: Dahlia Katz

Blanche is the perfect opposite of her sister Stella who has married a crude, ill-mannered man but with whom she is in love, in lust and happy about it. The couple lives on the wrong side of the track but in an integrated community that gets along. Shakura Dickson delineates a sympathetic, tough and humane Stella who understands her sister and tries to cover up the awful reality that she sees. She has made her truce with life and is content but is forced to face the reality of her sister’s delusions and deterioration. Dickson shows Stella’s strengths and humanity and when Blanche is taken away to an asylum, she lets out a heart-wrenching scream that is like an emotional punch in the gut.

Mac Fyfe has no difficulty portraying Stanley. One of the most famous moments occurs when he bellows “Stella” following his drunken abuse of her. He yells her name but he adds two syllables to his bellow and the word Stella is elongated to Stella-ah-ah and modulates his voice to express anguish, regret, fear, terror, it is a masterly touch.

Blanche DuBois played by Amy Rutherford 
and Mitch played by Gregory PrestCredit: Dahlia Katz

What I did not get from Fyfe is the magnetism that should modify his character for the audience and Stella. His lust, his crudeness and love for Stella are there, but there is no other saving characteristic. We should not forget that in the end he becomes a rapist.

Gregory Prest deserves special praise for his portrayal of the decent, lonely, pathetic Mitch who tries to establish a relationship with Blanche. He is quickly disabused when he finds out a few facts about her past.

The set designed by Lorenzo Savoini showed a card table on the left separated by a curtain for  the kitchen and bedroom to the right, A staircase leads to the apartments of the neighbors. In short, it does the job well. The same may be said of the costumes designed by Rachel Forbes.

Director Weyni Mengesha has added some music and a large screen is projected on the stage and we hear a band play. I have no idea why she added the music but I found it distracting and annoying. aside from that I found this a landmark production and Mengesha deserves full credit for attending to the details required for an outstanding production. Except for the music, everything was done meticulously for a great  night at the theatre. 
_________________
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams continues until July 7, 2024  at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Tank House Lane, Toronto, Ontario, M5A 3C4. www.soulpepper.ca

James Karas is the Senior Editor, Culture of The Greek Press

Sunday, June 23, 2024

THE SHAW VARIETY SHOW and THE ROLL OF SHAW - REVIEW OF 2024 SHAW FESTIVAL PRODUCTIONS

Reviewed by James Karas 

The Shaw Variety Show and The Roll of Shaw are two of the five free-wheeling cabaret-type performances to be presented this summer at the Shaw Festival in the 150-seat Spiegeltent behind the Festival Theatre. The Spiegeltent looks like a bar and the customers see  actors performing improv acts and involving the audience. The Shaw Variety Show opened on May 17 and will run until October 6, 2024. I saw the May 23 performance.

Kristopher Bowman created the show and he, together with Cosette Derome, Manami Hara, Travis Seetoo and Shawn Wright performed the various skits.

The show was engaging, entertaining, silly and funny. The actors poked fun at themselves (“please keep coming so we can get paid”) engaged the audience (singing Happy Birthday to two audience members) and kept us amused for about 90 minutes.

Bowman, famous for adorning Harlequin romance covers, they tell us, was our ebullient and energetic host. Seetoo was the music director, played a guitar and sang a Gordon Lightfoot song.

Bowman devised takeoffs on game shows like The Price is Right and the energetic actors did their bit providing humor and antics while playing the games. One of them sang a song in Korean and another sang in Japanese. It was noteworthy and laudable that they introduced actors from diverse backgrounds and let them perform in the language of their origin.

Manami Hara taught us how to count in Japanese and we joined her in singing a song in her native language. Jonathan Tan from Malaysia was “interviewed” by Bowman and he managed to be witty and provide some information about his performing career and ability with various accents. And no, he has not a string of 2500 Duolingo lessons and he did not sing for Queen Elizabeth II, if I understood correctly.

There is a hilarious town meeting in old Niagara-on-the-Lake where they advise citizens how to deal with coyotes and skunks. Americans in the audience are declared prisoners of war and sing the town anthem.

The Roll of Shaw is the second such feature and I saw it on June 13. It was not as successful as The Shaw Variety Show but as our host Travis Seetoo noted it was a performance “never seen before and never to be seen again.” The fact that the air conditioning system did not work was an unfortunate feature on a very hot afternoon.

Seetoo wants us to see role-playing, in effect the actor’s life. He devised whodunnit and had two actors sitting at a table adlib plot details as he prompted them. Imagine you are Eliza Doolittle of My Fair Lady leaving Professor Higgins or Ann Whitefield of Man and Superman. Now imagine a meeting of the International Socialist Society where Ann is talking with Eliza. Shaw arrives at the meeting and he is stabbed. Who done it?

In the heat and perspiration of that afternoon Shane Carty and Cosette Derome were not inspired on June 13, the date that I saw it, to come up with enough witty lines to carry the afternoon. The audience was not in a good mood and the actors, especially in situations like that, need feedback and very little was coming to them. As Seetoo told us it was a show not seen before and never to be seen again and that should apply to the malfunctioning air conditioning system.
_______________________________
The Shaw Variety Show and The Roll of Shaw  continue until October 6 and September 28, 2024, respectively at the Spiegeltent, Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. www.shawfest.com

James Karas is the Senior Editor, Culture of The Greek Press

Thursday, June 20, 2024

WENDY AND PETER PAN - REVIEW OF 2024 STRATFORD FESTIVAL PRODUCTION

Reviewed by James Karas

Every year the Stratford Festival produces a play for young people. It is a wise decision because it gives parents a chance to take the youngsters to the theatre and for the Stratford Festival to nurture the next generation of theatre lovers.

This year’s wise offering is J.M. Barrie’s Wendy and Peter Pan in one of its recent adaptations. The original play premiered on the stage as Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up in 1904 (yes, 1920 years ago) and it has been adapted for stage and screen numerous times. The Stratford Festival is much younger than that but planning for longevity is great thinking.

We first meet the Darling family in London at the turn of the twentieth century, the three boys, John, Michael and Tom and their older sister Wendy. They are a rambunctious lot but the boys will not let her play with them. Tragedy strikes when Tom falls ill and dies. The family is inconsolable and Wendy keeps looking for  her brother when a year later the windows of her bedroom fly open and Petr Pan and the fairy Tink a.k.a. Tinkerbell  arrive. Peter is looking for his shadow.

They will take Wendy to Neverland which is not a suburb of London or Toronto but precisely where the name implies. The Lost Boys live there and could Tom be there too? Wendy’s family is magically taken to Neverland. We will witness life there and join the extensive and adventurous search for Tom and meet some extraordinary characters and events. There is Hook, the pirate captain whose left hand has been eaten by a huge crocodile. The latter is brilliantly created, by, I assume, Special Projects Automation Programmer Johnathon Tackett, ZFX,  and we see it crossing the stage menacingly with its bright shining lights. The Lost Boys, a boisterous group of youngsters, will provide kinetic energy and entertain us.

Jake Runeckles as Peter Pan (left) and Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks 
as Wendy. Photo: David Hou.

Jake Runeckles as Peter Pan is so active and agile she looks as if she were made of rubber. Runeckles gives an amazingly athletic and effective performance. Wendy in the hands of  Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks shows maternal instincts but at the same time adapter Elle Hickson  makes her a recognizable  modern woman. The reversal of names in the title is intended to emphasize that message. An impeccable performance by Jimenez-Hicks.

Laura Condlin as the nasty pirate Captain Hook  is supposed to be scary and funny but with her sidekick Smee (Sara-Jeanne Hosie) hanging from her arm she comes along looking like someone  from The Pirates of Penzance despite displaying a philosophical side. Fine work by both actors.   

What does the production offer to the young, its target audience?

A great deal of first-rate entertainment. The play opens in the bedroom of the Darling children in London in 1908. The three boys, John (Noah Beemer) , Michael (Justin Eddy) and Tom (Chris Vergara) engage in a pillow fight and horsing around vigorously but want to exclude their sister Wendy because she is a girl. She will not stand for it. Things get more exciting when Peter Pan crashes through the window of the bedroom. There are swordfights, displays of athletic prowess, magic, and comically rambunctious activity. A pirate ship appears and the excitement stops when needed for more serious business.

Jake Runeckles as Peter Pan (left) and Laura Condlln as Hook
 with members of the company, Stratford Festival 2024. Photo: David Hou.

The piece de resistance is no doubt flying. The actors are suspended up to the stage rafters and moved around in a display of the technical talent of the Stratford Festival’s team. Credit goes to Senior Flying Director and Automaton Programmer Andrea Gentry, ZFX. The Program explains that the flying is coordinated by professionals who do it as part of their everyday job. No need for anyone to be frightened by one of the highlights of the production.

What do the adults who accompany the youngsters get?

Adapter Ella Hickson gives Barrie’s play a welcome feminist twist. The comedy is entertaining for all but having Wendy as an intelligent, assertive woman who is approaching maturity is a fine touch. Peter Pan may be the classic boy who does not want to grow up but may have chinks in his amour over and above what he may think he can control.

The play takes place in England and the actors try to speak in some kind of English accent. Their success is minimal and the attempt at an accent that they have difficulty with is unnecessary. They would sound just fine with an Ontario accent.

Director Thomas Morgan Jones had a mammoth production on his hands with flying directors, a choreographer (Jena Wolfe), Set and Costume Designer (Robin Fisher), a Fight and Intimacy Director (Anita Nittoly), a Fight Captain (David Ball), a Flight Captain (Agnes Tong)  and a regiment of behind-the-scenes workers and helpers. They all deserve individual kudos with the victor’s wreath going to Jones.

Wendy and Peter, adapted by Ella Hickson from the novel by J.M. Barrie continues in repertory until October 7, 2024, as part of the Schulich Children’s Plays, at the Avon  Theatre, Stratford, Ontario. www.stratfordfestival.ca 

James Karas is the Senior Editor, Culture of The Greek Press 

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

MY FAIR LADY – REVIEW OF 2024 SHAW FESTIVAL PRODUCTION

Reviewed by James Karas

My Fair Lady opened on Broadway in 1956. There were many musicals before that and since but few have reached the artistic heights that it climbed. It remains one of the best musicals ever written. The Shaw Festival is staging it for the second time and it is a superb production.

The musical is by two of the best creators of Broadway musicals, Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music). It is based on Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion and the film by Gabriel Pascal based on the same play. And if you are looking for pedigree, you need to know that the play is based on the Greek myth of Pygmalion, the sculptor who created a statue from a piece of ivory that was of such extraordinary beauty that he fell in love with it. The goddess Aphrodite gave life to the statue and it became Galatea. Pygmalion married her. You get the connection between the myth and Professor Higgins creating a lady from, as he puts it, a squashed cabbage leaf.

In My Fair Lady, Henry Higgins is a professor of phonetics (the science of language) in Edwardian London. He meets Eliza, a flower seller in Covent Garden with an atrocious Cockney) accent and he undertakes to teach her how to speak proper English so she can pass as a duchess at an embassy ball at Buckingham Palace.

Tom Rooney plays the gruff, pitiless, selfish disciplinarian who puts Eliza through the steps of proper pronunciation. Rooney must also sing several songs that are witty and really recitatives that are utterly delightful. “Why can’t the English learn to speak?” he asks and gives examples of painful accents including the comment that in some places English  has completely disappeared. “In America it hasn’t been spoken for years” he comments. Rooney is almost tyrannical in his discipline of Eliza but never without irony as in the rhetorical question: “Why can’t a woman be like a man” meaning himself.  A wonderful performance. 

  
 Kristi Frank as Eliza Doolittle and Tom Rooney as Henry Higgins in 
Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady (Shaw Festival, 2024). 
Photo by David Cooper.

The goal is to get Eliza to speak proper English and the pupil is played by Kristi Frank. Her Eliza is no doormat but improving her accent is no small task. Frank sings some of the most famous  and beautiful sings of the show from “Wouldn’t it be Loverly” to “I could have danced all night.” Frank has a beautiful, lustrous voice that comes through like rays of sunshine. Aside from her singing she shows her tough side by standing up for herself and of course making hilarious booboos like getting overexcited at the races and shouting to the horse to move its arse.

I had a small problem with some of her lines. There were times when she sounded shrill while usually, she sounded fine. I could not figure out the reason for the shrillness and surmise that it may been the sound system that caused it. Aside from that she was superb in every way.

The third character of note is the gentlemanly Colonel Pickering who contrasts with Higgins in his treatment of Eliza. He is a true gentleman and David Alan Anderson fulfills the role. He doe does not have much singing to do except for the awful “You did it.” I mean the song not his singing.

The most engaging person in the musical is Eliza’s father, Alfred P. Doolittle (David Adams.) He is a common dustman who likes to drink and is too poor to have morals. “With a little bit of luck” is a paean to the workers on the bottom of the earning scale and “Get me to the church on time” is an ironic celebration of the common man who has struck it rich, Adams as Doolittle together with the vegetable sellers at Covent Garden gives is a wonderful glimpse of the other world of My Fair Lady. A splendid performance.

David Adams as Alfred P. Doolittle and Kristi Frank 
as Eliza Doolittle in Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady.
Photo by David Cooper.

We like and praise Patty Jamieson as Mrs. Pearce, Sharry Flett as the professor’s forthright mother and Taurian Teelucksingh who is besotted with Eliza and gets to belt out “On the street where you live.”

My Fair Lady is set in front of St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, the nearby market  itself where the awfully-accented merchants are selling vegetables, Prof. Higgins’ upper crust house and a ballroom. In the first scene in front of the church we see a foggy background with a dome of a church rising in the distance. It could be St. Paul’s Cathedral which is nowhere near Covent Garden. It can’t be St. Paul’s Church because it does not have a dome. Higgins’ booklined residence and the scene in the ballroom are fine but not ostentatious. Designer Lorenzo Savoini does a good job with Higgins’ house that includes a walkway of steel girders above across  the bookshelves.  There is minimal use of furniture and furnishings that are pushed on and off the stage as needed

The costumes especially the dresses designed by Joyce Padua were haute couture for the ladies and fine for the men according to their station in life. Paul Sportelli conducted the orchestra with enthusiasm.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening that the theatre.
___________________
My Fair Lady by Alan Jay Lerner (book & lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music)  continues in repertory until December 22, 2024  at the Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. www.shawfest.com.

James Karas is the Senior Editor, Culture of The Greek Press