My Fair Lady at CPCC
Posted on 9 Jun 2010 by Mitch Metz
Fore more info on My Fair Lady, and to purchase tickets, visit CPCC’s ticket website.
With visions of Wicked continuing to dance through my head, my brain was still in theater mode as I pulled up to the very accessible parking deck over at CPCC. My Fair Lady is currently running at the beautiful Halton Theater. Sure, I knew I wouldn’t be getting a flying green Eliza Doolittle, but it’s been circled on my calendar since reading Susan Roberts Knowlson would be playing the role. This girl can bring it!
For the one or two of you who are unfamiliar with the show, it’s a musical adaptation of the 1913 George Bernard Shaw play, Pygmalion. In Greek mythology, Pygmalion is the sculptor who fell in love with his statue. Most of us recognize the story and music from the 1964 film with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.
The show opened as an immediate technical disappointment, when I caught myself leaning forward in my chair, straining to hear the actors. Let’s remember, this is the south, and while they ARE speaking English, it’s with a strong English accent. It’s pretty important that we hear everything, as we try to figure out what the heck they’re talking about. Maybe y’all are better at cockney comprehension than I, but frankly I don’t hear a whole lot of people speaking that way while enjoying my biscuits at Bojangles’. Next time they come out to beg for money before the show, perhaps they could tell us it would be used for a better sound system… I’d empty my wallet in a heartbeat!
In Dennis Delmar’s (Henry Higgins) opening number “Why Can’t the English”, he shows his frustration with the locals as they butcher their native language. This sets the stage for his offer to transform a simple flower girl into a lady, with his phonetic and cultural influence. I expected more from a veteran like Dennis, and was rather surprised by his portrayal of the character. While we get glimpses of great acting, he’s inconsistent, and somehow failed to bring a gentle side to Higgins. By the end of the show, when the audience should be rooting for Eliza to acknowledge Henry as her true love, I found myself saying “Darlin’, I think you were better off selling flowers”. Henry may have fallen for his creation, as Pygmalion did, but to me it felt more like a guy who missed his dog. Maybe that’s the point, I don’t know, but I didn’t like it.
Susan Roberts Knowlson (Eliza Doolittle) perfectly spews out the most annoying accent imaginable, much to our delight. I still catch myself chuckling over her vowels. “A-E-I-O-U“ never sounded so incredibly ghastly. Strong vocals, impeccable timing, believable acting, stage presence, style, grace, beauty… she’s got it all. The sweet and dreamy “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” gives us a taste of her incredible voice, only to be upstaged by the hilarious “Just You Wait” when Eliza half shrieks to the audience about how sweet her revenge will be. The crowd actually seemed to share Eliza’s joy when she finally “got it” during “The Rain in Spain”. Susan truly nailed the spirit of Eliza. Well done!
Craig Estep (Alfred P. Doolittle) brings energy and good comedic ability to the stage during songs “With a Little Bit of Luck” and audience favorite “Get Me to the Church on Time”. Craig plays Eliza’s good hearted father who enjoys his time with friends at the local pub. Interaction with Higgins was slow and awkward though, as if these two needed a little more time to rehearse. Overall, Craig gave us more than a few laughs, and led the ensemble through the spirited production numbers.
Charles LaBorde (Colonel Pickering) is another veteran of the stage, but somehow missed the memo stating his character is a sophisticated gentleman. Playing the Colonel as some sort of bumbling boob did NOT add comedic value to the show, only awkwardness. However, he was one of the few who really projected on stage, and understood that bigger is better in theater. I did enjoy his acting, even with his unusual portrayal of the role.
Andy Faulkenberry (Freddy) brings some real talent to the stage in a supporting role as the side love interest of Eliza the lady. After meeting at the horse track, Freddy vows to wait “On the Street Where You Live”. Andy’s vocals were perfect, and while I still see him as the very slick and loveable Cat In The Hat from a performance last year (which he played amazingly), I felt he shined in this role as well.
I’m going to go easy on director Ron Chisholm, because he is working with whoever might show up for an audition. No one made any obvious blunders, and the show moves well on it’s own. I do feel he could have pulled more out of his actors, but I don’t know the limitations they’re under with scheduling of rehearsals.
Choreographer Linda Booth did an amazing job with this show. With so very many dance numbers, My Fair Lady needed a dedicated, hard working group. She allowed the real dancers to get a little flamboyant and show their stuff, while still getting good, basic steps out of the non-dancers. Most of us don’t realize just how tough it is to get your average beer guzzling, NASCAR watching redneck to step-ball-change. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but you know what I mean. Linda’s ensemble executed and entertained.
Thanks to Susan, this was a great night out! If you’ve already seen Wicked, or are on a budget (only $21, are you kidding me?), My Fair Lady will put a smile on your face and a tune in your head. Thank you CPCC, for a nice evening of entertainment.