They could have danced all night. And in Atlanta Lyric Theatre’s new production of “My Fair Lady,” they do.
Just when I thought I had little left to say about Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s musical treatment of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” Atlanta Lyric Theatre comes along with a show featuring a youthful and exuberant ensemble that loses itself in the material and actually seems to be having fun.
We live in a time when scaling back is an economic necessity in the theater. And though this production is no exception — two pianos stand in for a full orchestra; the company is about half the size of the 1956 Broadway original — little is lost in the transaction.
In fact, in the Lyric’s telling of the tale of the cockney flower girl and the hoity-toity phoneticist who transforms her into a swan, much is gained.
Director Scott Seidel delivers a production that is uniformly solid and at times stellar, while choreographer Ashley Chasteen sculpts dances that show off the energy and elan of this hardworking troupe. These kids aren’t just here to support the leads. They have their own kind of star power.
As Eliza, Galen Crawley fills the room with her splendid singing. Her Eliza is a comic firecracker, but she also has sting.
As Higgins, Mark Bradley Miller is suave and coolly confident. Egged on by Colonel Pickering (Rob Roper), Higgins delivers on his promise to turn Eliza into a lady, but when he tries to take all the credit, Eliza lashes out.
Considering that Shaw’s “Pygmalion” appeared on stage in 1913, Eliza’s show of courage is bold. Some read it as a feminist statement: Higgins doesn’t tame Eliza; she tames him. Crawley’s Eliza responds to Higgins’ misogyny with considerable bluster, as well she should.
I should probably point out that Karen Howell is fabulous as Higgins’ grand and regal mother, and Roper, making a return to the stage after a 30-year absence, is quite fine as Pickering. With his booming voice and towering physicality, Roper all but upstages Miller, who makes for a rather gentle Higgins.
As the Higgins-Doolittle romance creeps along, there is considerable tomfoolery in the machinations of Eliza’s father (George Deavours), a mercenary souse, and Freddy Eynsford-Hill (Chris Saltalamacchio) makes a sweet, fleet-footed attempt to court Eliza. Deavours (who also designed the wigs for this production) is terrific, and Saltalamacchio is earnest and lovely (“On the Street Where You Live”).
On the design side, Lee Shiver-Cerone’s sets conjure the streets and interiors of London with minimal fuss, though those half-birdcages that encase the pianists are a bit flimsy.
Amanda Edgerton West’s costumes are appropriate to class and period. The upper set turns out for the ascot and the ball in elaborate gowns and formal dress, while the denizens of Victorian London are garbed for the workaday world.
Wouldn’t it be loverly if every musical from another age made the journey to the modern stage with such elegance and economy? I could grow accustomed to that.
“My Fair Lady”
Through Sept. 3. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Also, 2 p.m. Sept. 2. $33-$58. Atlanta Lyric Theatre, Jennie T. Anderson Theatre, Cobb Civic Center, 548 S. Marietta Parkway, Marietta. 404-377-9948, atlantalyric.com.
Bottom line: With a little bit of luck, you’ll see this show.
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