`My Fair Lady' opens tonight at Chesapeake

Musical: Eliza Doolittle, Professor Henry Higgins and their memorable Lerner and Loewe songs begin a two-month run.

Howard Live

February 24, 2000|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For the next two months, Chesapeake Music Hall will be a "loverly" spot with "My Fair Lady" in residence. Based on George Bernard Shaw's 1914 play "Pygmalion," this delightful musical has lyrics and dialogue by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe.

It opened on Broadway in March 1956 and ran for 2,717 performances, a record number then.

"My Fair Lady" made Broadway musical history with Lerner and Loewe's score, which retained Shaw's sharp wit and added warmth, charm and enchanting melody. It also made a star of Julie Andrews, who created the role of Eliza Doolittle, and added a new dimension to the career of Rex Harrison, who became identified with the role of Professor Henry Higgins.

Not a singer, Harrison had trouble with his songs right up to opening night.

Another original cast member who became forever identified with his role was Stanley Holloway as Eliza's father, Alfred P. Doolittle.

Lerner and Loewe's memorable score includes such great tunes as "I Could Have Danced All Night," "On the Street Where You Live," "Show Me," "Why Can't the English," "Get Me to the Church on Time," "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," "The Rain in Spain," "Without You" and "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face."

The story tells of flower seller Eliza Doolittle, whose cockney accent intrigues Higgins. He convinces her that if she learns to speak like a "proper lady," she can have her own flower shop. Professor and student soon drive each other to distraction.

After Eliza learns the rudiments of speaking English correctly, Higgins takes her to the Ascot Races to introduce her to society. At the races she meets Freddy Eynsford-Hill, who falls in love with her. A few more lessons, and Eliza is ready for a society ball, where she charms everyone.

Higgins considers Eliza's triumph his own, and Eliza leaves his home to search for kindness from Higgins' mother, who treats her with dignity, as does Higgins' old friend Colonel Pickering.

When Higgins realizes Eliza has left him, he finds he has "grown accustomed to her face," searches for her and finds her at his mother's home. She returns to him as the play ends.

In the Chesapeake Music Hall version, Susan Bell plays Eliza and David B. Reynolds plays Higgins. John Scheeler is Pickering; Joe Rose is Eynsford-Hill; Jerry Vess is Alfred P. Doolittle; and Judy Smith is Mrs. Pearce (Higgins' housekeeper). Kathryn Smith is Mrs. Higgins, and Rachel Zampelli plays Mrs. Eynsford-Hill.

"My Fair Lady" runs weekends from today through April 23 with some Wednesday matinees. Friday and Saturday evening performances are $32.50. Sunday and Wednesday matinees are $29.50. Buffet is served 1 1/2 hours before the show. Today's show starts at 8 p.m. Shows are at 8: 30 p.m. Fridays; 8 p.m. Saturdays; and 7 p.m. Sunday evenings, with Sunday matinees at 2: 30 p.m. Wednesday matinees are at 1 p.m.

Chesapeake Music Hall is near U.S. 50 at 339 Busch's Frontage Road in Annapolis. Reservations: 410-626-7515. Information: Web site at www.chesapeake- musichall.com.

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