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Friday, June 30, 2017

I could have danced all night at the Olney (extended thru AG 6)

Brittany Campbell (Eliza Doolittle) and Danny Bernardy (Henry Higgins) dance all night in Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady/Photo by Stan Barouh

With a little bit of luck, you can, too! And still beg for more.

It's that much fun! And it's grand. Another huge hit at the Olney Theatre Center which brings the magic of My Fair Lady to the stage to enjoy and admire.

Chris Genebach (Alfred P. Doolittle) and the ensemble of Olney Theatre Center's production of My Fair Lady/Photo by Stan Barouh

The songs are all here, the ones you've grown accustomed to adore: I'm Getting Married in the Morning, On the Street Where You Live, I'm An Ordinary Man, Get Me to the Church on Time, glamorized by a 14-piece orchestra (hidden somewhere) and under the usual superb direction of Christopher Youstra and the baton of Andra Velis-Simon.

When Benjamin Lurye as Freddy Eynsford-Hill sang On the Street Where You Live, I was almost carried away to the top of the huge lilac branch hanging over half the stage to soar with Freddy. His knockout voice and stunning delivery are alone worth the price of admission. (Just you wait.)

Danny Bernardy is Professor Higgins who tries to teach Eliza (Brittany Campbell) a lesson or two about speech after he "rescues" her from life in the streets selling flowers.

Mr. Bernardy and Ms. Campbell are captivating with undeniable chemistry, enchantment pouring out of every step, critical to any show's success, the duo's confidence and strength adding to the production's allure.

Valerie Leonard's skilful performance and fast transition  from Mrs. Pearce to Mrs.Higgins and back again could be a lesson for every theatre student.

Chris Genebach is Alfred Doolittle, Eliza's dad, a scene stealer every time he appears to draw laughs and images of the mischief he is soon to make. (See if you can follow the fast-moving ladder and steps in-between.)

Another notable cast member is Todd Scofield as Colonel Pickering, a right jolly agreeable fellow and a nice balance to the rumpus kickers in the rest of the lot.

Ensemble members seem to love being here and dancing the night away which my notes reflect since "choreography, choreography, choreography" (by Grady McLeod Bowman in his Olney debut) is the refrain appearing throughout. 

Dialect coach Zachary Campion certainly succeeds for actors' speech patterns lack affectations and exaggerations.

The staging has been advanced to the 1920s when women got the right to vote in the United Kingdom, a twist to the original Edwardian timing by playwright George Bernard Shaw's whose adaptation of Pygmalion, Lerner and Loewe used as their basis for Lady.

Female suffrage receives a slight nod in the production, but the treatment is neither didactic nor annoying, barely noticeable, save some costuming by designer Pei Lee who dresses the characters in drab colors (browns, greys) until a perceptible lift is detected, and off we go to the races, but where did Lee find Eliza's last outfit? A trifling matter, especially when Eliza appears as a princess to descend the stairs, her brown skin beautifully contrasting with the ivory ball gown reminiscent of Michelle Obama's 2009 inaugural formal.

And those outlandish race hats!  Kate and William's wedding may have inspired Pei Lee.  Another scene worth the price of admission, especially combined with the marvelous sound effects Matt Rowe put together as the horses round the theatre's ring behind the audience and the ensemble closely follows their progression. 

However, brace yourself if you've seen My Fair Lady before and expect ostentatious Edwardian sets. They are not to be at the Olney. James Fouchard has created a "neo-minimalist" design like a chess board, and in Professor Higgins's library, there's a game of scrabble upon the wall.

At the end of the show a man told me he cried. He cried? I cried, too. And, at intermission. What's this? It's a happy show, but director Alan Souza got the best of us and our emotions at a dazzling performance.

I'll never get too accustomed to it. 

In the ensemble are: Ian Anthony Coleman, Warren Freeman, Julia Klavans, Christina Kidd, Alex Kidder (also, dance captain), Ashleigh King, Jimmy Mavrikes, and Christopher Mueller.

Other creative staff members are: Trevor A. Riley, production stage manager; Max Doolittle, lights; Ali Pohanka, wigs; Dennis A. Blackledge, director of production; Debbie Ellinghaus, managing director; and Jason Loewith, artistic director.

What: My Fair Lady

Where: Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832

Wednesday through Saturday at 8:00 pm; matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 pm; Wednesday matinee July 12 at 2:00 pm. Now through August 6, 2017.

An audio-described performance for the blind and visually impaired on July 5 at 8:00 pm and a sign-interpreted performance on July 13 at 8:00 pm.

How much: Tickets begin at $45 with discounts for seniors, groups, military, and students.

Ages: 10 years and above

Duration: Two hours, 40 minutes with one intermission

Available and may be taken to seats

Parking: Free, nearby, and plentiful on-site

For more information and tickets
: 301-924-3400 for the box office or 301-924-4485

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