Venice Little Theatre’s My Fair Lady turns out fair enough.
By Kay Kipling
I won’t go into here the many elements that make up a classic stage musical, but My Fair Lady sure has them all, in spades.
Apologies for the “happy” ending that would probably have made Pygmalion playwright George Bernard Shaw roll in his grave aside, My Fair Lady has such great songs, memorable characters and perfect timing in its story of Eliza Doolittle’s ascent from the gutter, thanks to her linguistic training by Professor Henry Higgins, it entertains every time, no matter how often we’ve seen it.
That’s true once more with Venice Little Theatre’s production, which, while never quite as bright and lively as My Fair Lady can be, still stirs enjoyment. If it felt rather subdued the night I saw it (and the orchestra, hidden away and muffled, definitely does feel subdued), there were certainly moments to savor as well.
That’s true from the beginning, when Higgins (Joseph Giglia) spots Eliza (Kathryn Ohrenstein) selling flowers and she first conceives the idea of stepping up in the world with better speech patterns. Ohrenstein and Giglia both deliver their familiar songs (I’m an Ordinary Man, The Rain in Spain, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly, etc.) with skill, as do Bob Miller (as Alfred Doolittle) and his cohorts on With a Little Bit of Luck and Get Me to the Church on Time. And Scott Vitale makes for a proper upper-class British twit as Freddy Eynsford-Hill.
Kathryn Ohrenstein as Eliza in Venice Little Theatre’s My Fair Lady.
Ohrenstein seems a little nervous at times in the demanding role of Eliza, but she basically does a fine job and has us rooting for her. Giglia is not always quite as assured as Higgins would be, either, but when it counts he comes through with the spirit of the self-absorbed man-child that makes his character both appealing and exasperating.
Kelly Burnette’s choreography is clean and unfussy, and director Michael Newton-Brown moves the evening along smoothly. If this My Fair Lady is not quite as sparkling as one might wish, it’s nevertheless mostly pleasing.
My Fair Lady continues through March 16 at VLT; call 488-1115 or go to venicestage.com for tickets.