title retouch

reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

When the production of Lerner and Lowe’s new musical My Fair Lady opened on Broadway in 1956, it starred Rex Harrison in the role of speech professor Henry Higgins, and Julie Andrews as flower girl Eliza Doolittle. These stage depictions of George Bernard Shaw’s creations from Pygmalion, along with Harrison’s and Audrey Hepburn’s turns in the roles in the 1964 film version, have long been the benchmarks against which others are measured. If you saw either the original play or the film, you likely reveled in Harrison’s style as Higgins, with his articulated way of delivering lyrics and his conveyance of Shaw’s bluntly selfish character. And both Ms. Andrews’ or Ms. Hepburn’s sweetly vulnerable Eliza no doubt won your heart as the girl changed through her and Higgins’ efforts. They are the standards, tried and true.

One of the things I like most about theatre is the opportunity directors, actors and actresses have to bring their own fresh ideas about characterization and performance to their work. Beef and Boards’ current production of My Fair Lady, directed by Eddie Curry and choreographed by Ron Morgan, gives us freshness in high level performances. Kimberly Doreen Burns stars with B&B favorite David Schmittou in the two iconic roles and both bring their very own approaches to their offerings. Ms. Burns is a feisty and fiery Eliza, never backing down and seldom bruised by the treatment of her mentor. Her powerful singing style only augments this choice and she is a top-notch performer. Schmittou’s Higgins is stylish, to be sure, but far more melodic in his delivery than Harrison and perhaps, at times, more assailable than his charge. He puts his own well-formed set of skills to work and produces an adroit counterpart to Ms. Burns. As a result, the frequent scenes between the two main characters prove brightly captivating.

Higgins teaches Eliza with marbles in her mouth

As part of her lessons to speak proper English, Professor Henry Higgins (David Schmittou), right, put marbles in the mouth of Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Doreen Burns), left, and tells her to speak a line from her book in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of “My Fair Lady”.

Mark Goetzinger adds much to the action with his sturdy Colonel Pickering. Kinder and gentler than Higgins, he is as most of us would have acted had we been there. Director Curry adds the role of dustman Alfred P. Doolittle to his workload, and pulls off his usual energetic rendering, full of lively movement and excellent comic timing. Also noteworthy is Vickie Cornelius Phipps who, as Higgin’s aristocratic mother, makes the absolute most of her dozen or so lines with an aptly droll delivery.

Wouldn't It Be Loverly2

Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Doreen Burns), center, sings “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of “My Fair Lady”.

A huge aspect of this show is it’s need for a large assortment of beautiful costuming and Jimm Halliday steps in to do impressive work with his designs and construction. The set by Michael Layton, especially the Higgins study where much of the action takes place, is polished and innovative. Finally, Kristy Templet flawlessly leads the B&B orchestra through the famous and familiar score.

Chef Odell Ward’s buffet offerings are highlighted by a delicious baked chicken recipe and a simple but tasty tilapia, along with the usual assortment of veggies as well as fettuccini alfredo. And great table service abounds as the B&B wait staff is thorough and attentive.

Bottomline: Top level performances by the leading characters as well as by the supporting players make this a superb presentation of a show not seen on the Beef and Boards stage for 20 years. And it is truly suitable for all ages.

My Fair Lady continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through May 14th. Show times and reservations can be viewed at http://www.beefandboards.com or call the box office at  317-872-9664.

  • – Photos by Julie Curry