Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Less than a fair lady.

My Fair Lady is one of my favorite shows. The lyrics, the songs, and the story are just plain loverly. So when I heard Pioneer Theatre Company is opening its current season with My Fair Lady, I was more than excited.

Unfortunately, the Pioneer Theatre production doesn’t live up to the material. The reason, the two leads just don’t deliver. Elizabeth Stanley as Eliza Doolittle is flat. The Eliza character usually makes me choke up in at least two or three moments. This performance? Nothing. I think Ms. Stanley was worrying way too much about the accents and not enough about the acting.

And Paul De Boy is no better as Henry Higgins. In fact, he’s worse. I know Henry Higgins is supposed to be a curmudgeony, sexist intellectual but we’re still supposed to like him. Mr. De Boy’s Higgins is just annoying. What’s with those hand movements? I’ve seen American Idol rejects that give more convincing performances.

OK, I’m probably being too hard on the leads. But these roles are iconic. And I think I have the right to expect more. Thank goodness not all was bad. Jeff Brooks as Alfred Doolittle gets off to a shaky start but warms up to steal several scenes. The trio of men providing back-up vocals turn out to be more than just a little bit of luck. And the costumes during the racing scene are stunning. I just wish the company delivered performances to match.

It’s early in the run. Maybe performances will improve. And there’s always the possibility I just got it wrong. So see for yourself. My Fair Lady at Pioneer Theatre Company runs through October 4.

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