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Review: Stages St. Louis' "My Fair Lady" Exudes Energetic Magic

(Courtesy of Peter Wochniak)

I know everyone is probably making the same pun, but Stages St Louis’ closing show of their season, My Fair Lady is, without any doubts, absolutely “loverly.” The moment you enter the theater James Wolk’s set draws you in and sets you down in a London market street circa 1910. Costumes by Dorothy Marshall Englis are exquisite thorough-out, but the opening sets the tone so you are holding your breath to see what Eliza wears at her transformation. (Plot- man takes bet to transform street urchin into lady) The audience is abuzz with how many times they have seem this show, whether they prefer the stage play to the movie, which song they are most looking forward to hearing, and the anticipation is palpable. Add to this the long, illustrious career of Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady and you assume actors are quaking in their boots.

And they are. Quaking and prancing- stomping and sashaying, this is the most energetic cast I’ve seen in a long time. They do it so beautifully, the dancing and singing, the teamwork and universal craftsmanship (which extends to all the technical elements as well as cast and crew); you can really see the respect this show receives from all involved.  It must be a delight for them to perform each and every time.

Pamela Brumley is a brunette beauty of an Eliza Doolittle whose transformation includes not just her voice, speech and dress, but the dignity and calm center that truly defined a lady of that era. Brumley’s voice is a pleasure, strong, sweet and lyrical. Christopher Guilmet has a great voice as well so you may find yourself wishing Henry Higgins’ songs were more musical. Both Brumley and Guilmet are delightful actors and their scenes together sparkle. Colonel Pickering, inhabited gorgeously by John Flack, often joins them onstage. Flack imbues the Colonel with such joy and good sense and the trio’s “Rain in Spain” number was my favorite.

Credit (Courtesy of Peter Wochniak)
Pamela Brumley in Stages St. Louis' production of "My Fair Lady"

Other things that were fabulous and must be mentioned include the costumes for Ascot and Eliza’s ball gown, which are frothy, gorgeous concoctions and engender feminine delight, the study of Professor Higgins and especially his black leather and satinwood couch, so luxurious and masculine, I cringed every time someone stood on it. The four-part harmony on “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” sung by Craig Blake, Steve Isom, Larry Mabry and Jeffrey Scott Stevens was handsomely done, Kari Ely’s Mrs Pearce was stoic and sturdy and Brandon Davidson’s Freddie Eynsford-Hill was endearing.

Edward Juvier played Eliza’s “unconventional moralist” of a father, Alfred P. Doolittle with exuberance and was a great favorite with the audience. I found him a bit hard to understand in “With a Little Bit of Luck” but his acting was excellent and the second act’s “Get Me to the Church On Time” was great fun. Dana Lewis’ choreography contained an artful motif that repeated and worked well to tie the look of the show together and Matthew McCarthy lighted the whole, brilliant show in lovely fashion.

My Fair Lady continues at Kirkwood Civic Center’s Robert Reim Theatre through October 6th. Make an effort to see this vivacious cast create some magic in Kirkwood.

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