Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Heritage High School My Fair Lady

By • Mar 8th, 2009 • Category: Cappies

Not even Professor Henry Higgins’ own mother can stand to be around him. He does not understand the meaning of the word ‘compromise,’ openly admits his distaste for women, and runs such a tight ship that his servants regularly threaten to quit. All in all, Henry Higgins seems a highly unlikely candidate for romance, even more unlikely than a penniless Cockney guttersnipe who can’t string two coherent words together. But when “where the devil are my slippers?” counts as a declaration of love, the highly unlikely is bound to happen.

Based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, My Fair Lady first opened on Broadway in 1956, with lyrics and book by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. In a timeless rags-to-riches story, Professor Henry Higgins vows he can turn even a common street urchin into a true lady through elocution lessons, but as upper-crust society falls for the charms of the Professor’s protégé, so does Higgins himself.

Leah Graefe‘s boundless energy and richly flowing vocals brought the character of Eliza Doolittle to life, convincingly making the transition from street waif to belle of the ball. As Henry Higgins, Teague Nicholson‘s eccentric mannerisms and elastic facial expressions made his character just as loveable as infuriating, even when delivering the most offensive lines. His smooth English accent, precise articulation, and tuneful singing were constant throughout the performance. As his loyal companion, Colonel Pickering, Christian Meudt was the perfect example of a dignified English gentleman.

Brandon Spann stole the show as Eliza’s cheerfully scummy ne’er-do-well father, with a drunken swagger, gravelly voice, and several pillows stuffed into his waistcoat. Also notable were Henry Higgins’ maids, whose pitch-perfect harmonies never wavered, and Nathan Eacker as an especially hard-working butler. The servants were equally excellent as stagehands, moving set pieces swiftly and smoothly.

The upper class, however, deserves just as much praise as the servants and beggars. The stiff, snobbish gentry maintained laudable straight faces throughout the Ascot Gavotte, the highlight of the performance. Higgins’ long-suffering mother, played by Carley Bates, alternately displayed humor, astringency, and compassion, and Jimmy Wheless‘ powerful singing voice stood out in his portrayal of Freddy Eynsford-Hill. Effective lighting by Blair Russell and Ben Tuttle further showcased the talent onstage.

The cast overall was dynamic and animated, though occasional over-the-top acting detracted from otherwise strong performances and some actors struggled with the different British dialects that the script required. At times, actors seemed unsure of what to do with themselves onstage, but others acted through every scene and song without a trace of awkwardness. Despite inconsistent levels of sound, most of the actors were easy to hear and understand.

“Why can’t the English learn how to speak?” Professor Higgins rants in the opening number. But the undeniably talented Heritage High School theatre department spoke and sang their way through My Fair Lady with barely a hitch. Even the famously finicky Professor Higgins would admit that “You did it, and the credit for it all belongs to you!”

by Megan Fraedrich of West Springfield High School

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