From the moment one walks into the Walt Disney Theater at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and sees the exquisite watercolor of London’s St. Paul’s dome onstage, we know we are stepping back to a time of opulence. Indeed, “My Fair Lady” is like visiting a dear old friend.
The looming question is, how does this old warhorse stand up to the test of time? Director Bartlett Sher has carefully reimagined this masterpiece to fit the post #metoo era. The result is a no-nonsense production faithful to George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” which received 10 Tony nominations at Lincoln Center in 2018.
Boasting such classic songs as “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “The Rain in Spain,” “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” and “On the Street Where You Live,” “My Fair Lady” tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a young Cockney flower seller, and Henry Higgins, a linguistics professor who is determined to transform her into his idea of a “proper lady.” But who is really being transformed?
The entire cast is energetic and robust, with excellent voices, finely directed by David Andrew Rogers. It’s exciting to see Central Florida native Maeghin Mueller in the touring company along with such standouts as Richard Coleman as Alfred P. Doolittle, Eliza’s ne’er-do-well of a father, who steals the show in “I’m Getting Married in the Morning.” This show-stopping number is an ode to bachelor parties everywhere, showcasing Christopher Gattelli’s spirited choreography, culminating in Coleman being hauled off to the church—on time, no less.
Diana Craig’s Mrs. Higgins is luminous, with a hint of Glynis Johns and Nathan Haltiwanger, as the beguiled Freddy Eynsford-Hill is a delight in “On the Street Where You Live.”
But it’s Madeline Powell’s Eliza Doolittle that is a sensation. Making her Broadway National Tour debut, Powell recently graduated from Oklahoma City University in 2021, where she received her degree in musical theatre. Powell’s voice is a marvel, with an operatic quality she puts to acceptable use. This is a tour de force role as she takes command of the stage.
This leads us to our original question: How does this old warhorse stand the test of time? Do Eliza and Professor Higgins end up together?
In his original “Pygmalion,” Shaw was insistent that they should not and even wrote a PostScript essay, “What Happened Afterwards,” to the 1916 version of the script. In 1920 he wrote a note to the leading actress, insisting, “When Eliza emancipates herself — when Galatea comes to life — she must not relapse. She must retain her pride and triumph to the end.”
“So much of our process in preparing for the show was learning about the source materials, ‘Pygmalion,’” explains Powell. “So, learning a lot about the original text and the playwright, George Bernard Shaw, and how important it was to him that his opinions on marriage and gender and societal expectations informed ‘My Fair Lady.’ He wanted his personal opinions to be heard in this piece.”
Powell explains that Shaw’s views align more with contemporary society than we imagine. “He was someone who was very feminist, anti-marriage and against the idea that you had to marry anyone. He was someone who was ahead of his time.”
With this “My Fair Lady,” we have come full circle, with Shaw’s original ending on full display. Never has an “unhappy ending” been so satisfying.
Dr. Phillips Center Presents “Into the Woods” in Walt Disney Theater for its Only Florida Engagement
Mark your calendars for June 6, as the traveling Broadway production of “Into the Woods” will play a series of select engagements across the U.S. in 2023, including seven performances in Walt Disney Theater. Starring Montego Glover as The Witch, Stephanie J. Block as The Baker’s Wife, Sebastian Arcelus as The Baker, and Gavin Creel as Cinderella’s Prince/Wolf reprising their Broadway roles, the strictly limited engagement will run from June 6 to June 11 presented by Dr. Phillips Center.
As one of only 10 cities in the country selected to present this direct-from-Broadway production, the downtown Orlando arts center is excited to welcome “Into the Woods” and its incredible company to Walt Disney Theater, bringing four Broadway stars to Central Florida.
“Into the Woods,” which became the first Broadway hit of the 2022/2023 season after its sold-out run at New York City Center Encores!, is directed by Lear deBessonet, with music supervision by Rob Berman, and choreographed by Lorin Latarro. This production is dedicated to the memory of Stephen Sondheim.
Dr. Phillips Center Announces 9th Annual Applause Awards to Honor Excellence in High School Musicals
Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts announced Monday the 2023 Applause Awards winners, taking place on Saturday, June 3, at the arts center’s Walt Disney Theater. Now in its 9th year, the annual celebration is modeled after the Tony Awards and celebrates top talent in musical theater among our region’s high schools, including teachers and students. The 2023 Applause Awards will be directed by Broadway veteran Ray Roderick for the second time and hosted by Tony Award-winning Broadway performer LaChanze Sapp.
A panel of 12 casting agents, show directors and industry professionals selected 350 students from 33 high schools and eight counties to participate. The program features live performances by the winners in the Outstanding Musical category and culminates in the announcement of the Outstanding Lead Male and Female Performers. The pair will advance to the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, known as the Jimmy Awards, representing Central Florida and the Dr. Phillips Center. The 14th annual Jimmy Awards will occur on June 26 at Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre. The ceremony highlights the best high school talent nationwide, featuring almost 100 participants.