My Fair Lady

Humor Keeps the Lady Fresh - Miami Herald (Miami, FL) - 19 December 2007

Humor Keeps the Lady Fresh

By Howard Cohen, Miami Herald

Is there anyone who hasn’t seen My Fair Lady? Can there possibly be anything new to reveal in this tale of a curmudgeon giving elocution lessons to a common Cockney flower girl? The musical’s origins date back a century to George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. The version playing Miami’s Carnival Center for the Performing Arts through Sunday features all the famed songs Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe wrote for the original 1956 stage classic. Yes, they are as memorable as you imagined. Wicked may be Broadway’s hot ticket, but it’s doubtful anyone will remember its songs in 50 years the way this show’s On the Street Where You Live endures.

At one time, back in grade school, before the FCAT, it seemed you couldn’t get your diploma if you didn’t see at least one production of My Fair Lady in your young life. Learning the A-B-Cs, 1-2-3’s and the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain went together like ra-ma la-ma la-ma ka-ding a da-ding de-dong. Oops, wrong musical. Surely, we saw that one, too.

This My Fair Lady, as theater buffs will proudly boast, is the Cameron Mackintosh-produced revival which, in some circles, is as potent an endorsement of its artistic merit as the cultural significance would have been had Dick York, the original Darrin on the ‘60s sitcom Bewitched, returned to kick his look-alike replacement, Dick Sargent, off the set.

Yet Mackintosh, the British super producer behind such theater perennials as Cats, Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera, does have a way with this Lady, putting gifted people into their proper positions.

The staging and costuming is as precise as you could possibly desire. Director Trevor Nunn and choreographer Matthew Bourne lavish With a Little Bit of Luck with a cast tap-dancing with garbage can lids on their feet. It’s certainly rousing.

The touring company’s stars are Christopher Cazenove and Lisa O’Hare as Higgins, the professor, and Eliza, the focus of his attention.

Cazenove, pop culture obsessives will note, had a featured role on the prime time soap Dynasty 20 years ago, playing Blake Carrington’s conniving brother Ben.

Now 64, Cazenove still has the presence for a defining role such as Higgins, the ‘‘book-learned gentleman’’ who bets a fellow linguist that he can teach Eliza enough verbal skills to pass her off as a duchess -- looking upon her, initially, as barely human.

O’Hare has a winsome soprano, perhaps not as musical as Julie Andrews’, the original Eliza, on her set piece, I Could Have Danced All Night, but she handles herself well.

She’s also a fine comedienne, especially in a scene where she practices her oh-so-perfect ‘H’ sounds at a posh race track with the moneyed crowd. Sally Ann Howes as Higgins’ upturned-nose mother, adds heft -- and even some warmth, to the show. (Howes, now living in West Palm Beach, replaced Andrews on Broadway in 1958 to play Eliza.)

But Tim Jerome, as Eliza’s lower-class pop Alfred Doolittle, was the most fun. His numbers, With a Little Bit of Luck and Get Me to the Church on Time, crackled with energy and humor.

This Lady still appeals.