If you were planning to skip My Fair Lady and wait for more recent Broadway blockbusters at the Aronoff Center later this season, please reconsider. This show, a hit in 1956, is getting a top-notch revival imported from London where it was staged at the Royal National Theatre by Trevor Nunn. He won an Olivier Award (London's version of the Tony) for outstanding musical production, as did choreographer Matthew Bourne.
I'd give one more to costumer and scenic designer Anthony Ward, who dresses the cast of three dozen in darker hues than any My Fair Lady I've ever seen and places the show squarely in grimy 1914 London.
The roles of Professor Henry Higgins and his cockney flower-girl student Eliza Doolittle are filled by British performers Christopher Cazenove and Lisa O'Hare. He's appropriately dry and provocative, but O'Hare is a dream — funny, sweet and light on her feet, but with a feisty edge that's perfect for the role. Even if they don't quite strike sparks, there are enough verbal and musical fireworks to captivate audiences.
Adding to sparkle are Sally Ann Howes as Higgins' pragmatic mother (she replaced Julie Andrews as Eliza on Broadway a half-century ago), Tim Jerome as Eliza's drunken philosopher-father and College-Conservatory of Music grad Justin Bohon as Eliza's fatuous suitor Freddy.
This production beautifully re-creates Lerner & Loewe's wonderful songs, although the orchestra's sound is too electronically processed for my taste. Given the price people pay for Broadway Series tickets, the sound engineers need to eradicate the popping and hissing bugs that plagued opening night.
Nevertheless, this My Fair Lady is a delight from beginning to end (almost three hours of it), especially the marvelous dance sequences at Ascot (inspired by race horses) and on the raucous streets of London. Grade: B+
MY FAIR LADY, presented by Broadway Across America at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, continues through Tuesday. See times, buy tickets and find nearby bars and restaurants here.