A Loverly ‘Fair Lady’ in Westchester

Published: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 7:00 am By: Tom Holehan Source: Post-Chronicle

A return visit to Lerner and Loewe’s most popular musical, “My Fair Lady”, is always a welcome treat. And when done as well as it is currently being rendered at the Westchester Broadway Theatre, the pleasures are even more in evidence. This is a very solid revival of a beloved theatre classic.

Adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s, “Pygmalion,” “My Fair Lady” is, of course, the timeless tale of Eliza Doolittle, a cockney flower girl who crosses paths with speech Professor Henry Higgins and is soon part of his household. Why? The cynical Higgins has made a bet with his friend, Colonel Pickering, that he can turn the ill-educated Eliza into a princess who will impress the upper-classes with her sterling command of the English language.

Under the breezy direction of Charles Repole, “My Fair Lady” has all its key players firmly in place. Jennifer Babiak is a delightful Eliza making the change from ill-bred harridan to picture-perfect society lady both believable and winning. Indeed, her transformation at the end of the first act is a drop-dead perfect stage moment. Tom Galantich has just the right temperament for Higgins never over-playing the rude priggishness and making us believe that he and Eliza could actually fall for each other.

Both actors handle all the music beautifully, too. Miss Babiak hits that glorious high night in “I Could Have Danced All Night” with ease while bringing severe gravitas to “Just You Wait.” Those only familiar with Rex Harrison’s talk/singing of the Higgins role will surely enjoy Mr. Galantich’s rich vocals blessed with ruthless comic timing.

In other roles, Bill Dietrich displays great comic bluster as Eliza’s ne’re-do-well father. His two crowd-pleasing songs, “With a Little Bit of Luck” and “Get Me to the Church on Time,” are delivered with sublime gusto. William McCauley’s stuffy and lovable Colonel Pickering, Karen Murphy’s starchy housekeeper Mrs. Pearce and Kathleen Huber’s regal Mrs. Higgins (the professor’s mother) add to the high quality of performance here. One might wish that Joe Chisholm’s handsome but lackluster Freddy Eynsford-Hill had more spirit playing Eliza’s anxious suitor though his singing of “On the Street Where You Live” is melodic.

The strong ensemble is decked out in black and white elegance for the Ascot Race Track sequence by costumer Gail Baldoni and Steven Loftus’s set design is spare but richly appointed. Michael Lichtefeld’s choreography and Leo P. Carusone’s musical direction are, as usual, top-notch. All told, quite a loverly production.

“My Fair Lady” continues at the Westchester Broadway Theatre through Jan. 29. Be aware that the theatre will substitute the production with its annual holiday show from Nov. 30 to Dec. 23. For more information or ticket reservations call the theatre box office at 914-592-2222 or visit www.broadwaytheatre.com.

Tom Holehan is Co-chairman of the Connecticut Critics Circle and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found at www.ctcritics.org.

Link to original review