Music Circus kicked off its 65th season Tuesday with a spiffy rendition of the musical theater masterpiece “My Fair Lady.” The Lerner and Loewe classic (book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, music by Frederick Loewe) is one of the favorites of Sacramento summer theater audiences.
Based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion”, the plot concerns the changes wrought in both teacher and pupil when aristocratic professor Henry Higgins, on a bet, vows he can turn Cockney flower-seller Eliza Doolittle into a proper-sounding lady.
Paul Schoeffler plays the haughty Higgins with so much disdain for anyone who isn’t him that his despicable character doesn’t seem to be an act. He is so good, his transformation into an almost-caring individual is almost hard to believe.
Glory Crampton, who plays Eliza Doolittle, on the other hand, is completely believable. Her transition from “guttersnipe” to self-confident young woman is believable — and welcome. She becomes thoroughly modern Eliza.
William Parry plays Colonel Pickering, the man who goaded Higgins into taking on the Doolittle project. Other strong roles include: Stephen Berger as Eliza’s father, Alfred P. Doolittle; Jason Forbach as lovesick suitor Freddy Eynsford-Hill; Mary Jo Mecca as stalwart housekeeper Mrs. Pearce; Toni Sawyer as Mrs. Higgins, Henry’s mother. Shannon Stoeke, in his eighth season at Music Circus, plays the officious Professor Zoltan Karpathy, who judges Eliza not only a proper lady, but a foreigner — Hungarian, to be exact.
Aside from its story, “My Fair Lady” is highly regarded for its sterling score: “I Could Have Danced All Night” (perfectly performed by Crampton), “On the Street Where You Live” (Forbach’s strong voice is both loud and clear), “With a Little Bit of Luck” (Berger gives a jubilant reading) and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” (Schoeffler is at his most serious), among others.
Music director Craig Barna draws a bright but not overpowering sound from the live orchestra; choreographer Bob Richard stages several fine set pieces, including “Ascot Gavotte” and “The Embassy Waltz.”
Music Circus mainstay Glenn Casale directs the production with a sure, though uninspired, hand. It all works but it lacks … something. If it were as confident as Eliza (character and actor), this thing would knock your socks off. As it is, it’s still one heckuva show.
“My Fair Lady” plays at 7:30 each evening through Sunday and at 2 pm Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at the Music Circus, 1419 H St. Tickets are $40-$83 and are available in person at the box office or by phone at (916) 557-1999. For more information, visit sacramentomusiccircus.com.
Photo by Charr Crail