A Classic Musical Gets A Classic Treatment As Stages St. Louis Closes With “My Fair Lady”

Pamela Brumley as Eliza leads the opening number, "Loverly" at Stages' production of "My Fair Lady." Photo: Peter Wochniak

Pamela Brumley as Eliza leads the opening number, “Loverly” at Stages’ production of “My Fair Lady.” Photo: Peter Wochniak

Doing what they do best- presenting musicals in their purest form- Stages brings their magic touch to Lerner and Loewe’s classic story, “My Fair Lady.” Featuring a lot of familiar faces, the production breezes along with a jaunty air while the talented cast does justice to a book and score that is probably one of the best musical adaptations in theatre history. Drawing on Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” its’ the story of the cockney flower girl who is transformed into a princess through the machinations of a curmudgeonly professor with the musical comedy twist at the end on Shaw’s classic work. It’s a beloved show and shows off Stages at its finest.

My wife remarked on the ride home how Stages probably wouldn’t have thought- 27 years ago when they started- that they’d have such an elaborate set for a show. This is certainly a triumph of both the masterful designer, James Wolk and a crew that made those set changes flawlessly and almost at the speed of light. There were audible gasps almost every time the lights dimmed and then went up again as impeccable sets for the Covent Garden, Professor Higgins’ study, the Ascot and a beautiful conservatory all appeared with rapid-fire stage magic within seconds. It’s not unusual to start off a review about the set- but that’s usually when a cast isn’t up to the product on stage. Not so the case with “My Fair Lady.” True, the set was “center stage,” but the action on that set was spectacular as well.

Edward Juvier as Alfred bemoans the fact that he's "Getting Married In The Morning." Photo:  Peter Wochniak

Edward Juvier as Alfred bemoans the fact that he’s “Getting Married In The Morning.” Photo: Peter Wochniak

A delightful Pamela Brumley captures our heart from the first moment of her “ows” and “garns” and into the show’s first big number, “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly.” She has charm and spunk and a sweet, sweet singing voice that’s perfect for the songs for Eliza Doolittle. The pompous and confident Henry Higgins is a perfect foil to her fear and unsuspecting nature. Christopher Guilmet handles the role with just the right amount of swagger and nonsensical dismissal. He also handles the sometimes difficult Higgins’ score with the confidence of …well, Henry Higgins. With perfect style and nuance, he manages to bring the full of life character to full stature.

Another old favorite, Edward Juvier, stepped in late to the role of Eliza’s father, Alfred P. Doolittle. Of course, it looks like he’s been playing the role his whole life. Never a misstep in line or lyric or dance step as he properly mugs his way through his two big numbers of the evening, “With A Little Bit Of Luck” and the wild and raucous second act show-stopper, “Get Me To The Church On Time.” And, as Liza’s sappy love interest, Freddie Eynsford-Hill, Brandon Davidson makes the most of the small but mighty role as he gets one of the best and perhaps strangest love ballads in musical comedy history, “On The Street Where You Live.”

John Flack as Pickering and Zoe Vonder Haar as Mrs. Higgins in Stages' "My Fair Lady." Photo: Peter Wochniak

John Flack as Pickering and Zoe Vonder Haar as Mrs. Higgins in Stages’ “My Fair Lady.” Photo: Peter Wochniak

Some old favorite actors shine in this production- John Flack, Kari Ely and Zoe Vonder Haar. As Colonel Pickering, John gets laughs and shots of applause for his often befuddled and stiff-upper-lip portrayal of the new friend of Henry who bets against him turning this flower girl into a duchess in less than six months. And he scores in the vocal department as well in the second act opener of “You Did It.” And Zoe is Henry’s mother and also gets some of the best laughs of the evening as the only one who can toss the zingers at Henry and get away with it. And finally, Kari Ely is properly prim as Mrs. Pearce, Henry’s housekeeper.

The winning combination of Director Michael Hamilton, choreographer Dana Lewis and musical director, Lisa Campbell Albert bring this classic production to life. As I said at the top, these are no-nonsense presentations never straying far from the original. With a beloved show like “My Fair Lady,” you don’t have to. And, in addition to the aforementioned magic of James Wolk and his splendid set design, the costumes of Dorothy Marshall Englis and lights of Matthew McCarthy

Pamela Brumley and Christopher Guilmet in the finale of "My Fair Lady." Photo: Peter Wochniak

Pamela Brumley and Christopher Guilmet in the finale of “My Fair Lady.” Photo: Peter Wochniak

just add to the splendor of this production. If you’ve never seen the show (you must be under the age of 12) or if you’ve seen it dozens of times like most of us, you’ll never get a chance to see it like Stages presents it again. Give them a call at 314-821-2407 and secure those tickets now. It runs through October 6th.

 

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