My Fair Lady

Traveling 'Lady' is very fair, indeed - Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, FL) - 30 November 2007

The London depicted her has a bit of a dark tinge, but there's magic thanks to the stars, songs and dancing.

Elizabeth Maupin, Orlando Sentinel

*Reviewed on October 30, 2007.

WEST PALM BEACH - Directors can go to town underlining the meaner aspects of life in My Fair Lady -- the smoky gray darkness of the London night, the hardness of those with money toward those without, the sense of petty violence in the air.

But no matter the inclinations of Trevor Nunn, who originated this production, and Shaun Kerrison, who restaged it for the American tour, what you have is still the grace and charm of My Fair Lady, a musical that approaches perfection the way few others do.

This touring version, which comes to Orlando on Tuesday for a six-day run, does have a bit of a dark side. Streetwalkers display their wares under lamp posts in London's hardscrabble quarters. There's no good nature in the pub owner who turns out drunken Alfred P. Doolittle and his cronies into the cold night air. And more than once his daughter, Eliza, cowers before the threat of a fist, first from her father and then from Henry Higgins himself.

Yet this glorious musical is also a celebration of high spirits and of the feistiness that propel Eliza into a more captivating world. Choreographer Matthew Bourne, who's known for his transformations of just about everything from Swan Lake to Mary Poppins, has turned the old-fashioned vaudeville of Doolittle's "With a Little Bit of Luck" into a Stomp-like percussion extravaganza with garbage-can lids, spoons and washboards. And producer Cameron Mackintosh's care in casting has sent us a company that finds every bit of delight in this show.

Christopher Cazenove, a veteran of TV, movies and the British stage, makes a Higgins so cruel and aggressive that only his childish obliviousness softens him: In short, he's as much like Rex Harrison as anyone could hope to be. Dana DeLisa -- who plays Eliza two performances a week and stepped in for an ailing Lisa O'Hare on opening night in West Palm -- comes across as deliciously sweet, with a laugh that brands her a little goofy.

Those in the supporting roles, Broadway veterans all, have just as much personality -- Walter Charles as the dotty Pickering; Sally Ann Howes as a wonderfully dry Mrs. Higgins; Alma Cuervo as long-suffering housekeeper Mrs. Pearce; Justin Bohon as an especially callow Freddy; and Tim Jerome as the rambunctious Doolittle, a man you'd want to shoo from your parlor as strenuously as you'd want to invite him in. Musical-theater heaven is made of such as this.