By Patrick B. McGuigan
The Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre production of “My Fair Lady” is a triumph. Fortunately for the company but unfortunately for playgoers who don’t already have tickets, the show is sold out through this weekend.
In fact, Tuesday’s special Valentine’s night showing contributed to making this the best-selling run in CityRep history.
Governor Mary Fallin sent some love to the company, cast and crew last week with an official gubernatorial proclamation taking note of its successes over the past 10 years.
The current production running in the Freede Theater at Civic Center Music Hall is one of the most entertaining adaptations ever. The joint effort between CityRep and the University of Oklahoma’s Weitzenhoffer School of Musical Theatre is masterful.
As the bull-headed, brilliant and sometimes bullying Professor Henry Higgins, Jonathan Beck Reed is superb, giving the part his own stamp yet with an occasional tip of the hat to the late Rex Harrison (so fine in the film).
Michael Jones of CityRep is glorious as Colonel Pickering, and Charlotte Franklin is stellar as always, this time as the professor’s marvelous mom.
Steve Emerson shows impressive versatility with a comic, and once or twice touching, turn as Alfred P. Doolittle, a boozing and boastful manifestation of “the undeserving poor.” Fine supporting performances come from Sean McGee as Freddie Eynsford-Hill and Molly Cason Johnson as Prof. Higgins long-suffering maid and household manager.
Rebecca Ashton is lovely, endearing and fully invested as the lady of the title – a woman of intelligence and inner grace who transforms from Cockney flower girl to a dignified woman mistaken, in the end, for a princess.
Gov. Fallin designated St. Valentine’s Day this week (Tuesday, February 14) as “Oklahoma Loves CityRep Day.” Her proclamation was proudly framed and displayed at the opening weekend of performances for the classic musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.
The chief executive’s official proclamation of the recognition for our local equity theatre praised CityRep for “exceptional theatrical productions” that have brought “national recognition and honor to Oklahoma.”
Among other worthy steps, the company works regularly with local colleges and universities, including Oklahoma City University, University of Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma City Community College, Rose State and in this case, the University of Oklahoma.
Fallin took note, in her designation, of CityRep’s recognition by Actors’ Equity for “professionalism, artistry and excellence in Theatre,” as well as the acclaim that accompanied receipt of the governor’s arts award.
High praise goes to all aspects of the current show. An ensemble of performers brought to life the servants of the Higgins household, the “Ascoters” in the delightful horse racing scene and the Cockney folk laced throughout the tale. Praise must not be withheld from these performers: Bethe Adele, Lane Fields, Andrew Koslow, Dorcas Leung, Cory Lingner, Connor McCollum, Kassiani Menas and Chelsea Stavis.
Director Shawn Churchman used efficiently the Freede performance space, and Lyn Cramer’s choreography is a highlight. Lighting, sound and the duet of pianists conspired to give last weekend’s performances the vibrancy and deftness now customarily associated with CityRep.
Don Jordan, founding artistic director, can’t promise there are any hidden tickets – because there aren’t. However, a waiting list is established if tickets should become available due to call-in cancellations or no-shows. The adventuresome might want to risk a walk-up before the Friday and Saturday 7:30 p.m. shows or the 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday matinees.
“My Fair Lady” remains a bit controversial for some literary purists, those who have never accepted the transformation of George Bernard Shaw’s feminist-but-sad ending into the happier closing that Aubrey Hepburn made unforgettable in the motion picture.
Take it as face value and focus on this story’s dialogue about the nobility of the English language, the dignity of each human soul, and the ways love and respect can transform even the most curmudgeonly folk into compassionate (or at least empathetic) creatures.
This CityRep production of “My Fair Lady”