Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Playing Fair

Even though celebs from the “Lincoln” shoot have been hanging around town for a while, you might check out this photo gallery of cast members so you can keep your eyes peeled for these folks at your local coffee shop or restaurant.

Ms. Haubenstock’s rave about “My Fair Lady came out yesterday, a day after the feature about the production appeared in the Sunday paper. I was a little surprised that the coverage of the tree lighting at the Jefferson” in today’s paper didn’t mention MFL because I know the cast was there performing. Perhaps after the previous two stories, there was a moratorium on MFL coverage at the T-D?

I expect more reviews of this show will be popping up shortly, including mine in next week’s Style. I’m glad Ms. H had such a good time at the show, and I expect several folks will have a similar experience. I don’t know how to couch this exactly so I’ll just come out and say that, overall, I didn’t love “MFL.” I’m feeling a little sheepish about this because I really wanted to love it and I thought there were many individual aspects of the production that were truly exceptional. But my overall experience of the evening was only so-so. I’ll give more details when my review comes out – and prepare myself in the meantime for the pointed contradictory opinions.

With the annual “Drifty” show opening down at the Mill, I feel like we are truly entering the heart of the holidays as far as local theater goes. Perhaps it’s appropriate that “Torture” winds up at the Firehouse this weekend. It’s doesn’t exactly seem like a show for the season. Of course, neither does “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” and that opens at Sycamore Rouge on Saturday. Go figure. The attraction of this production, for my money, is the bar performances. Nothing like being that close to the action.

Finally, thanks to the person who forwarded me this link to the Arena Stage “Music Man” casting call. Though my little thespian will have to miss this event, I expect there are many others in town who might want to give it a shot. Could result in a nice little holiday gift, yes?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Disclaimer – this is just my point of view and not representative of any other input or opinion. It is just one person’s opinion. I am sure there are others who will not agree with this whatsoever.

I too wanted to love MFL and have been waiting for it to open since the season was announces. Yet (here is where my critique begins) but I left feeling underwhelmed and bored.

There were some incredible individual performances, in particular Stacey, Jason, Lauren, Ben, and the lady who played Higgins’ mother. The ensemble was very, very good. I could listen to Jason and Stacey sing all day and night. Even Joe’s speak-singing had perfect inflection.

Jason nearly stole the show with his numbers. Stacey was the perfect embodiment of Eliza Doolittle.

I must also say that the accents were nearly spot-on by every actor. This is something to be applauded.

Sadly, the "wholeness" of the show did not live up to the individual talent on the stage. Overall, I felt the show was drab and sad.

It certainly did not help that there was no orchestra. The two pianos were barely enough to support the singers, much less full-on dance numbers. This puzzled me and the group I was with. At first we thought they would sink into the floor and reveal the larger pit, but that was wishful thinking. I think additional instruments would have helped this production immensely. It would have provided some much needed musical energy and helped to support the action on stage.

Some of the sets dazzled; some looked half complete. The costumes were amazing, but looked slightly cartoonish when paired with some of the bland set pieces. During the ballroom scene, the gowns were dazzling, but the set did not match the glamour or aura one would expect for such a special and prestigious event (which is a pivotal scene in the show). There was a similar feel during the Ascot scene – amazing costumes, but actors placed against drab backdrop.

While I thought Joe did a great job executing the dialogue the way he was directed, I could not even begin to believe why Eliza would go back to this Higgins. I have seen this show many times and, of course, on the screen and Higgins always seemed a bit more approachable and empathetic. This Higgins was gruff and tough with few redeeming qualities. Higgins has some of the wittiest dialogue, but often it just came across as being nasty and not witty in the least. Even the soliloquy song at the end (I’ve Grown Accustomed to her Face) barely showed a dent in Higgins’ steely demeanor. To me, this show is all about female empowerment. While this Eliza does triumph in the end and completes her journey, this entire message is almost nullified when she decides to go back to his house.

Moreover, there is always some chemistry between these two leads. Sadly, I felt the chemistry was non-existent in this production. I liken the bizarre ending (where Eliza suddenly appears near the front of the stage while Higgins and the rest of the set are way off in the back) to the relationship of these two in this production – Eliza and Higgins come together mechanically and by force.

When you add the run time to this equation (no fault of the shows directors or producers), it all just seemed to drag on. The first 30 minutes alone were so slow and lacked any sense of energy that by the time the story was set up and the action really happening I needed to regain interest.

All in all (and strictly in my opinion), this was an opportunity lost for Barksdale. All of the pieces were there in some form or fashion. They just did not gel together. Bruce is an accomplished director. Most all of the cast and crew are RTCC award nominees or winners. The script and score are incredible. The empire is looking better than ever. Yet, even with all this talent and accolades, it goes to show that a show not firing on all cylinders can run off the tracks. Or in this case, never seems to get on the tracks to begin with.

Just my thoughts,