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My Fair Lady on Grand Ave

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Wednesday, April 23, 2008, at 08:39AM
'My Fair Lady' Ed Fuentes

"My Fair Lady"banner outside the Ahmanson Theatre

In a city that's in the middle of it's own revival, a musical that cannot falter is being performed at the Ahmanson Theatre. Cameron Mackintosh/National Theatre's incarnation of “My Fair Lady” hits every note, rarely dropping an "H".

During the last Thursday matinee, middle and high school students in attendance gave concert-style cheers during the opening bars of “Wouldn’t it be Loverly?” and “I Could Have Danced All Night” joining members of the audience who mouthed along with the lyrics.

As with most revivals -- on a weekday matinee -- on a long road tour -- there were beats that reminded you the musical was heading toward third hour. Yet, I grew accustomed to the pace.

That gave a lot of time for Eliza Doolittle, understudied with animated feminist flurry by Dana DeLisa, to bond with Henry Higgins, played with a beastly bad-boy edge by Christopher Cazenove.

Rousing everyone was the boorish, broad and boozy man-about-clown Alfred P Doolittle, played by Tim Jerome. The younger theater-goers were given a long swig of London Music Hall comedy, accented with a “Stomp” of trash can lids on the feet of buskers. Jerome's longish hair, free spirit and graceful physical comedy gave the role unintentional satire; Who knew Doolittle was the prototype for the never-aging surfer who refuses to leave the shoreline pub?

This "My Fair Lady" has a darker elegance while staying on track with George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. The Ascot Gavotte scene was back in black; the opening day of horse racing, used to poke at the elite, has new staging where the men moved like colts with skittish dance steps aching for a new Spring, and the ladies behind feathered manes peek nonplussed toward suitors. Clearly this was an upper class who knew the importance of being earnest.

One has to mention Marni Nixon. When she walks on stage as Mrs Higgins, the crowd welcomes her and a deeper subtext takes hold for those who know she voiced Audrey Hepburn in the film version of "My Fair Lady." Chuckles from the audience could be heard when she scolds Henry for not properly giving Eliza Doolittle any credit for her own trasformation.

With the Center Theatre Group adding a weekday performance for the season, hiking or DASHing up the hill gives more lunch or dinner options. On a Thursday afternoon, at the Music Center, the city is at your feet.

"My Fair Lady" / April 9 - 27, 2008 / Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center / 135 N. Grand Ave.

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