Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 10, 2022

Review: The Bushnell, My Fair Lady

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through March 14, 2022 
by Rebecca Phelps
When you arrive at the Bushnell Theatre get ready to sit back and soak in nostalgia for this beloved and most popular Lerner and Loewe musical. This newly minted Lincoln Center revival of the iconic classic "My Fair Lady" does not hold back on the glamourous costumes, sumptuous sets, full orchestra, and spectacle that audiences love to see fully realized on stage. Director Bartlett has mastered the art of reviving an old classic, updating it, and yet keeping all the original charm in the script and music as written.
Shereen Ahmed plays the role of Eliza Doolittle, the lowly girl selling flowers at Covent Garden when the opera lets out. She shows herself to be no shrinking violet right from the start when she realizes that Professor Higgins is writing down every word she says. Unfortunately for this reviewer as well as audience members, her cockney accent was so pronounced she was not only difficult for Professor Higgins to understand, but difficult for the audience to understand as well. One member of the audience commented that she needed closed captioning. Nevertheless, as soon as Ahmed opened her mouth to sing, we were immediately transported by her crystal clear, effortless singing voice. It was obvious that her voice training regimen with Higgins began to pay off in the story; her lines became easy to understand. Ahmed made for a sensational Eliza, as poised, elegant, and self-possessed as one could imagine.
Laird Macintosh portrays Henry Higgins as an appropriately blustery, privileged, bullying, and winey mama's boy.  Alfred Pariseau makes the most of his role as Colonel Pickering - a difficult one with relatively few lines but lots of stage time. Martin Fisher rounds out the major cast of characters as the often scene stealing role of Alfred Doolittle (Eliza's unlikely philosophical father). The accents utilized by Alfie, Mrs. Higgins, Mrs. Pearce and Alfie's wife-to-be represent several well-defined accents; a tribute to the detailed work that went into this production.
One can't leave out a mention of the huge, beautifully elaborate set that is on stage for most of the production. It is an enormous piece depicting Higgins' library, complete with circular stairway, that rotates bringing Bushnell's patrons into four different rooms in the house. Often the set is moving as the servants and other cast members walk through from one room to another in elaborate choreography. The show is worth seeing just for that alone.

The Bushnell's "My Fair Lady" makes for a delightful well-spent evening being transported into a world of classic musical theater bliss.