2nd Star turns out a polished 'Lady'

Players, stagecraft recall Broadway's Golden Age

June 18, 2008|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For legions of musical theater fans, My Fair Lady epitomizes Broadway's Golden Age. And in 2nd Star Productions' revival of the musical at Bowie Playhouse, she glows with ageless charm.

Conductor Donald K. Smith's 24-piece orchestra in the pit brings back the magic of Broadway at its peak. Add to this superb stagecraft in a series of fabulous scene changes and an array of costumes that recall designer Cecil Beaton's Broadway originals. Top it all with 2nd Star's first-rate cast, and you have a terrific show recalling the fabled Broadway original starring Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison.

The musical, which combines Alan Jay Lerner's literate lyrics with Frederick Loewe's music, was written in 1956 and based on George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion. It explores altering class distinctions by acquiring proper speech in a captivating Cinderella story.

The time is 1912 in London. In the opening scene outside Covent Garden, Professor Henry Higgins takes notes on cockney flower seller Eliza Doolittle's speech patterns. He assures Eliza and his linguist friend Colonel Pickering that he can teach her to speak like a lady and pass off "this guttersnipe as a duchess" or "accomplish something even more difficult and have her speak well enough to open a flower shop."

The audience is treated to great tunes like "I Could Have Danced All Night," "On the Street Where You Live," "With a Little Bit of Luck" and "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face."

Jane Wingard, president of 2nd Star, directs this show with a sure hand and forms a harmonious team with music director Smith. Triply talented Wingard also served as set designer, creating scenes of charming authenticity. As costume coordinator, she re-created Beaton's elegant black-and-white gathering at Ascot and other period costumes indicating class distinctions.

The cast is headed by Pamela Day, whose Eliza convincingly transitions from the cockney flower girl to an elegant duchess through hard work and grit. She is at her best when she fumes defiantly at Higgins as in "Just You Wait" and "Without You," a feisty song with the lines "Without your pulling it the tide comes in. Without your twirling it the world can spin. Without your pulling them the clouds roll by. If they can do without you, ducky, so can I."

As Higgins, Gary Seddon has a phonetics professor's flawless diction and the acting chops to convey pride bordering on arrogance in Higgins' teaching abilities and his confusion that these talents are not better appreciated by Eliza, along with difficulty understanding Eliza's problems adjusting to the profound changes her makeover dictates. Possessing greater vocal gifts than the role requires, Seddon brings humor to "Why Can't the English?" and charming surprise to "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face."

Eddie Chell as linguist Colonel Pickering adds class and warmth to the role and verve to the lively "The Rain in Spain" trio. Judy Smith gently plays Higgins' wise and patient housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce. Jonathan Glickman is comically sleazy as Eliza's irresponsible father, Alfred P. Doolittle, bringing roguish charm to "With a Little Bit of Luck" and humorous resignation to "I'm Getting Married in the Morning."

As Eliza's suitor, Freddie Eynsford-Hill, Nic Petersen brings a pleasing combination of humor and naivete along with a powerful tenor voice in "On the Street Where You Live" to provide one of the evening's musical highlights.

Supporting players Kathy McBee, Deborah Krauss, Ed Wintermute and Wendell Holland contribute to the overall excellence of this production.

I can't think of a better way to end 2nd Star's season than with this fairest of ladies, making it all the more a shame that this 12-year-old company continues to experience financial difficulties. It is actively soliciting volunteer help and donations. The situation may not be dire at the moment, however: A four-show 2008-09 season is listed in the program and at www.2ndstarproductions.com.

"My Fair Lady" runs through June 28 at the Bowie Playhouse in Whitemarsh Park. General admission is $18. Senior and student tickets cost $15. For reservations call 410-757-5700.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.