'My Fair Lady' at the Mechanic is respectable in every way

On Theatre

October 31, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

THE LERNER and Loewe musical version of George Bernard Shaw's ''Pygmalion'' is as fair and as pleasing as ever.

A road production of the musical opened last evening at the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre. A tight, professional presentation, it proves once more that this particular ''Lady'' is always welcome. She has not aged. She may never age.

''My Fair Lady'' is marking its 35th year, but time has dimmed neither the score nor the book of this very durable musical.

The book was written by Alan Jay Lerner, who also wrote the lyrics. Frederick Loewe wrote the music.

Legend has it that the Broadway reaction on opening night was so spirited that diners in the nearby Lindy's thought there had been an explosion in the subway.

Almost every song of the score became popular immediately, and the musical ran for more than six years in New York.

English actor John Neville is Professor Henry Higgins, the linguist, in the revival at the Mechanic. Christine Andreas is Eliza Doolittle, the flower girl he transforms into a lady, one who would eventually pass for royalty at the embassy ball; Clive Revill is Alfred P. Doolittle, Eliza's father; John Valentine is Colonel Pickering, another linguist and Professor Higgins' friend; and Kevin Dearinger is Freddy, the young man who loves Eliza and haunts the street on which she lives.

This particular character and his song, ''On the Street Where You Live,'' are frequently cut in regional productions of the musical. Fortunately, they have not been eliminated from this production; Dearinger does quite a bit with his one song.

On Broadway, Rex Harrison was Professor Higgins and Julie Andrews was Eliza. Harrison couldn't sing so he ''talked'' his songs. Neville can sing, well enough, at least, to carry the score, so there is that major difference between his performance and Harrison's. There are other differences. Neville does the role with his own comic touch. He is not walking in Harrison's shadow.

Andreas' voice is more straight than Andrews', but she does well enough with the score. And when she isn't singing, she is a very determined, very poised Eliza; poised, that is, after Higgins has coached her.

You may remember Revill. He has done a number of films. As Eliza's father, he is devilishly likable. He clowns, but not too much. This is the way you want to see the character done.

Crandall Diehl directed and choreographed the production, and the musical is not lacking in either department.

This particular ''My Fair Lady,'' a production that has been on the road for a few months and will not be taken to New York, is respectable in every department, direction, sets, dance and cast.

Among the songs are ''Wouldn't It Be Loverly?,'' ''With a Little Bit of Luck,'' ''The Rain in Spain,'' ''Show Me,'' ''Without You'' and ''I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face.'' They are all winners, and by George, the cast has got them.

''My Fair Lady,'' which may be the only Shaw property ever put to music (and the authors had to wait until Shaw was dead to do it), will remain at the Mechanic through Nov. 24. If you've never seen the stage version, this is a good time to acquaint yourself with it. It remains a marvel in construction and score. Few musicals can match it.

''My Fair Lady''

*** Musical version of the George Bernard Shaw play in which Professor Higgins, a linguist, makes a bet that he can transform a flower girl into a lady.

CAST: John Neville, Christine Andreas, Clive Revill, Kevin Dearinger, James Valentine, Patricia Drylie, Sylvia Gassell.

DIRECTOR: Crandall Diehl. RUNNING TIME: Two hours and forty-five minutes with one intermission.

TICKETS: 625-1400

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