Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 15, 2016

My Fair Lady

Opera House Players at Broad Brook, Broad Brook, CT
through November 27, 2016
by Michael J. Moran

In the program book’s “Director’s Notes,” Anna Giza observes that “My Fair Lady” is “often referred to as the most popular musical of all time,” winning six Tony Awards for the original Broadway production in 1957 and eight Academy Awards for the movie in 1964. After seeing the Opera House Players’ exhilarating take on this classic show, it’s easy to understand why.

The musical is based on the play “Pygmalion” in which a Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, is transformed into a lady through speech lessons from Professor Henry Higgins. Shaw’s edgy satire of the British class system in 1912 London is softened by Lerner and Loewe’s stronger focus on the budding romance between student and teacher.

This production benefits enormously from a star-making performance by 17-year-old Caelie Flanagan as Eliza. Her strident protests against Professor Higgins’ discourtesies in the opening scene are just as grating on the audience’s ears as on his. But when she starts getting the right pronunciation in “The Rain in Spain,” her now limpid tone is equally caressing to the ear. With acting chops to match her lovely singing voice, Flanagan has a bright future on the stage.

While there’s not a weak link in the 21-member cast, other standouts include: Gene Choquette, irascible yet sympathetic as Higgins; Robert Lunde, a hoot as his dotty comical sidekick and fellow linguist, Col. Pickering; Dennis J. Scott, hilarious as Eliza’s ne’er-do-well father, Alfred P. Doolittle; and, in a brilliant stroke of luxury casting, the radiant Erica Romeo investing every word from Mrs. Higgins (the professor’s caring, exasperated mother) with dramatic weight.

Musical highlights include: Choquette’s vulnerable “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face;” Scott’s rollicking “With a Little Bit of Luck;” and a touching “On the Street Where You Live” from Michael Graham Morales as Eliza’s hapless suitor Freddie Eynsford-Hill.

Inventive choreography by director Giza, sensitive lighting by Diane St. Amand, period-perfect costumes by Moonyean Field, resourceful set design by Francisco Aguas, and expansive support from musical director Kelly Sharp’s four-person band further enhance this gem of a production.