My Fair Lady at Minnesota Opera Center

My Fair Lady publicity photo

Ten Thousand Things’ production of My Fair Lady (Ten Thousand Things, various venues, though note that the “public performances” are at the MN Opera Center, 620 N. 1st St., Minneapolis, May 7-30, tenthousandthings.org) owes more to George Bernard Shaw (creator of the source material) than to Lerner and Loewe. If you want to hear the show’s marvelous music in its full throated glory, I would refer you to a CD or the DVD of the 1964 film. With the magnificent exception of Bradley Greenwald, who sings the best “On The Street Where You Live” you’re ever likely to hear, this cast just gets by, selling the songs (they are marvelous actors after all) with gusto and verve, but with minimal, it has to be said, musical expertise.

Quick caveat: I saw this show early in its run (the 2nd performance). No doubt the music will improve.

Ah, but if it’s the story you want, Professor Higgins’s remake of the feisty Eliza Doolittle from a Cockney street urchin into a high society belle, of the officious Colonel Pickering, and the besotted Freddy Eyenesford-Hill, the dipsomaniacal Alfred Doolittle and all the rest, then this TTT show was made for you. Here you’ll find five of the area’s best actors utilizing some nifty staging effects and multi-multi-casting (kudos here to director Lear deBessonet) and having at this classic warhorse with formidable glee.

The lean, lanky and wonderful Kate Eifrig may be a touch long in the tooth, but who cares; she plays Eliza with a passion and intelligence I never expect to see again. As Higgins, Steve Hendrickson is exquisitely arch and smarmy. Luverne Seifert (a Minnesota treasure, imho) glories in the role of Alfred Doolittle. I’ve mentioned Greenwald’s Freddy; even better, arguably, is his heroically bosomed Mrs. Pearce. Kimberly Richardson has a grand time with Pickering, sputtering and coughing her way through his scenes. For two and half hours, these performers have a grand time – and so will you.

TTT does stripped down productions. No lighting at all, minimal costumes and sets. In My Fair Lady a full length armoire functions as drawing room doors, as a bed, a saloon bar, etc. The idea is to bring theater into small venues where plays don’t normally happen: prisons, rest homes, chemical dependency facilities. Without the technical frou-frou, the productions become about acting, immediacy, purity and passion. It’s a concept that works beautifully.

Recommended.

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