A Look Again At “My Fair Lady” At Midtown Arts Center
An Update To My Review!
by Tom Jones, May 9, 2019
A few weeks ago I was in the audience for opening night of the marvelous “My Fair Lady” at Midtown Arts Center. I was in awe of the entire production. Staff of the show noted that one of the supporting characters, Michael Lasris, was out of town for that opening night, and could I possibly return later in the run to see him perform as Eliza Doolittle’s father.
Lasris has become a highlight of nearly every show he has been associated with, either as a performer, director, or choreographer. One of my earlier memories was his on-his-knees dancing as the diminutive Lord Farquaad several seasons ago in “Shrek.” Lasris is older now and probably won’t want to dance “on his knees” in future productions, but is as delightful as ever as Doolittle in this current “My Fair Lady.” It was bittersweet to see him perform, as Doolittle is his final role in Colorado before moving to New York in a few weeks.
For opening night I saw Robert Michael Sanders as the affable drunken father. He was very good, so it was somewhat with caution that I returned to see Lasris this week in the role. No need to worry. Lasris is nearly untouchable as the likeable do-nothing Doolittle who wants “everything” in return…
Also “delightful as ever” are the shows leads – Hannah Marie Harmon as Eliza, John Jankow as Henry Higgins, and H. Dan Harkins as Colonel Pickering. This entire show is every bit as excellent as it was when I first saw it a few weeks ago. Not to be missed.
Reviewed by Tom Jones
March 22, 2019
“The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain! She’s got it. By George, I believe she’s got it! Again – The rain in Spain lies mainly in the plain? And where does it rain? On the plain, on the plain. And where’s that soggy plain? In Spain. In Spain.”
Yes, she’s got it! After weeks of sometimes difficult turmoil, the poorly-educated flower market salesgirl has shown she CAN be educated, and CAN learn to speak like a well-born sophisticate. The “she” is Hannah Marie Harmon as Eliza Doolittle. And yes, she’s got it! In fact everyone in the cast has “got it” in this masterful Midtown Arts production of “My Fair Lady.”
More than sixty years have passed since the show triumphed on Broadway. Curiously, it has maintained its absolute charm and freshness in this MAC wonder.
The excellent skills of Harmon are joined by those of John Jankow as Henry Higgins, and H. Dan Harkins, as Colonel Pickering. The trio are on stage most of the time as Higgins places a bet with Colonel Pickering that he can turn the guttural persona displayed by the lowly Doolittle into a woman of charm and wisdom. They are a trio to behold. The two men educate, but sometimes ignore the object of their effort.
The Henry Higgins role was originated on Broadway by Rex Harrison who needed to “speak” most of his songs. In this production John Jankow is in excellent singing and speaking voice as the professor, as is Dan Harkins as Colonel Pickering. Harkins had the additional responsibility of welcoming everyone to the theatre with the pre-show announcements on opening night. He was particularly good in that role as well, keeping the audience amused and entertained, and reducing time of the sometimes- lengthy pre-show announcements.
Julie Andrews zoomed to stardom as Eliza in the original Broadway production in 1956. That show became the longest-running Broadway musical to that time, and went on to similar fame in London. For the Academy Award winning movie version in 1964 Julie Andrews was overlooked for starring role, with that part given to Audrey Hepburn. The movie’s producers felt that Hepburn would be better-known to the movie-going public. Andrews got her just rewards at the Academy Awards the next year, receiving the Best Performance by an Actress Award for her beguiling charm as “Mary Poppins.”
It would be difficult to find a better performer to play the role today than the excellent Hannah Marie Harmon. She is convincing as the rough Cockney girl with ambitions to “be somebody.”
While Higgins, Pickering, and Eliza Doolittle are center stage, Eliza’s hapless father “Doolittle” is a wonder on his own. For the opening night performance we saw Robert Michael Sanders as the affable drunken father, understudy to Michael Lasris who normally plays the role. Lasris will be hard-pressed to fill the boots of Sanders whose performance is beyond “memorable.” I may find my interest in seeing Lasris, however, as my excuse to return to MAC for another look as this delightful event.
In fact, what is not to like about this show? The set, the costumes, the lighting, the sound, the choreography, and the recorded orchestra accompaniment are exceptional. (There is no live orchestra.) Where in my bag of adjectives can I find words to adequately report my reaction to this production? The supporting cast members are as effective as the leads. Many in the ensemble take on several roles – always completely in step to the music and always in tune with their British accents.
Director Joseph Callahan has a long track record of excellent performances at Midtown Arts Center. This time around he is displaying his remarkable abilities, directing and choreographing this production of “My Fair Lady.”
While “The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain,” ”the cast is vast and….” completely delightful!
“My Fair Lady”
Main Stage of Midtown Arts Center,
3750 South Mason Street,
Fort Collins, CO 80525
To May 25, 2019