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Center Stage: ‘My Fair Lady’ at Broadway Palm is first-rate production

By Staff | Apr 25, 2018

Marsha Wagner

Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre’s 189th production of “My Fair Lady” has set a high mark in this season of first-rate productions. The 25th anniversary season for the theater was truly the biggest and brightest season that Prather Productions has ever presented, and the presentation of “My Fair Lady” is truly the jewel in the crown of the anniversary season.

When “My Fair Lady” opened in March 1956, it was an instant hit with the audience as well as Broadway’s exacting theater critics. According to them – and that still holds true today – George Bernard Shaw’s crackling mind and playwrighting genius is still the heart and soul of the musical, based on Shaw’s play “Pygmalion.” What Frederick Lowe (music) and Alan Jay Learner (book and lyrics) did was to take the old comedy and write it in much the way Shaw would have done had he been a musician instead of a music critic. In other words, they added to Shaw’s agile intelligence the warmth, wit, loveliness and excitement creating a memorable theater frolic that will entertain everyone who attends, regardless of age, and folks – “That’s Entertainment!”

The production is not only intensely beautiful to look at, with scenic design by Dominic Lau, costumes by John P. White and lighting by Tom Maron, it is also magnificently performed.

As we know, accents are central to the storyline as they mark the class distinctions which shape the prejudices and motivations of the main characters. Director Dean Sobon and dialect coach Regina Harbour has made sure that the accents and various dialects used in the production remain consistent by one and all throughout. This was hard work I am positive; but boy, did it ever pay off in the enjoyment of the show. For example, Maxwell Porterfield’s – playing Eliza Doolittle – deft transformation from cockney-speaking flower seller to proper British lady was very impressive. She did an excellent job of keeping the two accents straight and managing to switch between the two during the time that Eliza is still learning her new manner of speaking.

“My Fair Lady” is very relevant in today’s current environment, where we are amid class and power issues; the production does a great job of demonstrating the ways in which these forces shape the attitudes and expectations of the various characters. Henry Higgins, played exceptionally well by Daniel James Canaday, is not a particularly loveable individual. His ongoing arrogance and need to control, with a lack of empathy, could have turned the audience off in the hands of a lessor actor/singer. That, along with the excellent acting of the supporting cast – Dale Given as Colonel Pickering, Joshua Lehman as Alfred Doolittle and Harbour as Mrs. Pearce – and the background ensemble let it be understood that the misogynist and classist rhetoric was not to be condoned. As per usual, the excellent ensemble acting, singing and dancing give this show its heart, as well as its razzle dazzle.

“My Fair Lady” has often been called “a perfect musical” and you know what? It is! So, whatever you do, do not miss this production. It plays until May 19, which the way this year has sped by is just around the corner. Walk over to the phone now and call the Box Office at 239-278-4422 to make your reservation for a grand evening of theater at the Broadway Palm. When you phone, remind ’em Marsha sent you.