My Fair Lady

The potential for disaster was in evidence aplenty on opening night of Richard Chamberlain's L.A. debut as George Bernard Shaw's quintessential misanthrope, Professor Henry Higgins: the female lead role of Eliza Doolittle is being performed by the understudy (Meg Tolin), the sound system is gratingly tinny and inconsistent, the orchestra is out-of-tune, and the ensemble plows through the dialogue of the first act as if they just can't wait to get to the next tune.

With:
Professor Higgins - Richard Chamberlain
Eliza Doolittle - Meg Tolin
Colonel Pickering - Paxton Whitehead
Alfred P. Doolittle - Julian Holloway
Freddie - Robert Sella
Mrs. Higgins - Dolores Sutton
Mrs. Pearce - Glynis Bell
Professor Zoltan Karpathy - James Young

The potential for disaster was in evidence aplenty on opening night of Richard Chamberlain’s L.A. debut as George Bernard Shaw’s quintessential misanthrope, Professor Henry Higgins: the female lead role of Eliza Doolittle is being performed by the understudy (Meg Tolin), the sound system is gratingly tinny and inconsistent, the orchestra is out-of-tune, and the ensemble plows through the dialogue of the first act as if they just can’t wait to get to the next tune.

Yet, by evening’s end, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s musical tale of the unkempt and unlearned Cockney flower girl, who is transformed into a fine lady by the elocution taskmaster Higgins, once again proves that “My Fair Lady,” with its inspired melding of book and song, just might be the perfect musical.

Chamberlain exudes the proper patrician presence and vocal dexterity of the professor, but his accent suffers occasional lapses in his rush to be witty and debonair. A more melodic Higgins than the role’s originator, Rex Harrison, Chamberlain has everything in sync with his poignant rendering of the second act finale, “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.”

Tolin (subbing for Melissa Errico) can certainly deliver a song with style. Her spirited and lighthearted “I Could Have Danced All Night” is the highlight of the first act. She is defeated, though, by her accent, which sounds more Valley girl than cockney. She improves considerably in the second act, when called to perform a more mid-Atlantic speech pattern.

Director Howard Davies moves things along at a brisk pace, seamlessly segueing between scenes, aided by Ralph Koltai’s impressionistic modular scenic design and Donald Saddler’s minimalist choreography, but hindered by Peter J. Fitzgerald’s low-fidelity sound design.

Unfortunately, what gets lost through much of the first act is Shaw’s wonderfully combative dialogue.

This is particularly unfortunate in the delicious confrontation between Higgins and Eliza’s uniquely amoral father, Alfred P. Doolittle, played with impish charm by Julian Holloway.

Holloway is the son of Stanley Holloway, who created the role.

By the second act, all technical problems (except for the intonation of the orchestra’s violin section) and opening-night jitters are resolved.

Chamberlain and Paxton Whitehead, as Higgins’ friend Colonel Pickering, sail through those marvelously chauvinistic ditties, “You Did It” and “Hymn to Him.”

And choreographer Saddler finally unleashes the dancing skills of the ensemble in a roaringly jubilant “Get Me to the Church.”

Whitehead offers a dignified and sympathetic presence, and Robert Sella’s Freddy performs a wonderfully exuberant “On the Street Where You Live.”

This national touring company, which kicked off in April, is in L.A. for two weeks.

It plays the Orange County Performing Arts Center July 20-25, with plans to hit Broadway in the winter.

Errico is slated to resume the role of Eliza after recuperating from a recent operation.

My Fair Lady

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion; 1,200 seats; $50 top

Production: Barry and Fran Weissler and Jujamcyn Theatres, in association with Pace Theatrical Group, Tokyo Broadcasting System and Martin Rebbett, present a musical in two acts, book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, music by Frederick Loewe, adapted from the play "Pygmalion" by George Bernard Shaw; directed by Howard Davies.

Creative: Choreographed by Donald Saddler. Producers, Barry and Fran Weissler; associate producer, Alecia Parker; production design, Ralph Koltai; lighting, Natasha Katz; costumes, Patricia Zipprodt; sound design, Peter J. Fitzgerald; musical and vocal direction, Jack Lee. Opened, reviewed July 7, 1993 ; runs until July 18.

Cast: Professor Higgins - Richard Chamberlain
Eliza Doolittle - Meg Tolin
Colonel Pickering - Paxton Whitehead
Alfred P. Doolittle - Julian Holloway
Freddie - Robert Sella
Mrs. Higgins - Dolores Sutton
Mrs. Pearce - Glynis Bell
Professor Zoltan Karpathy - James Young

More Legit

  • Eric McCormack First Time in Variety

    'Will & Grace' Star Eric McCormack Looks Back on Early Stage Roles

    The potential for disaster was in evidence aplenty on opening night of Richard Chamberlain’s L.A. debut as George Bernard Shaw’s quintessential misanthrope, Professor Henry Higgins: the female lead role of Eliza Doolittle is being performed by the understudy (Meg Tolin), the sound system is gratingly tinny and inconsistent, the orchestra is out-of-tune, and the ensemble […]

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda Announces The Hamildrops (Listen)

    Lin-Manuel Miranda Announces 'Hamilton' Mixtape Vol. 2 With 'Ben Franklin's Song'

    The potential for disaster was in evidence aplenty on opening night of Richard Chamberlain’s L.A. debut as George Bernard Shaw’s quintessential misanthrope, Professor Henry Higgins: the female lead role of Eliza Doolittle is being performed by the understudy (Meg Tolin), the sound system is gratingly tinny and inconsistent, the orchestra is out-of-tune, and the ensemble […]

  • Pinocchio review

    London Theater Review: 'Pinocchio'

    The potential for disaster was in evidence aplenty on opening night of Richard Chamberlain’s L.A. debut as George Bernard Shaw’s quintessential misanthrope, Professor Henry Higgins: the female lead role of Eliza Doolittle is being performed by the understudy (Meg Tolin), the sound system is gratingly tinny and inconsistent, the orchestra is out-of-tune, and the ensemble […]

  • The Children review

    Broadway Review: 'The Children'

    The potential for disaster was in evidence aplenty on opening night of Richard Chamberlain’s L.A. debut as George Bernard Shaw’s quintessential misanthrope, Professor Henry Higgins: the female lead role of Eliza Doolittle is being performed by the understudy (Meg Tolin), the sound system is gratingly tinny and inconsistent, the orchestra is out-of-tune, and the ensemble […]

  • Marilyn Stasio's 10 Best New York

    10 Best New York Theater Productions of 2017

    The potential for disaster was in evidence aplenty on opening night of Richard Chamberlain’s L.A. debut as George Bernard Shaw’s quintessential misanthrope, Professor Henry Higgins: the female lead role of Eliza Doolittle is being performed by the understudy (Meg Tolin), the sound system is gratingly tinny and inconsistent, the orchestra is out-of-tune, and the ensemble […]

  • Adam Driver

    Adam Driver to Star in 'Burn This' on Broadway

    The potential for disaster was in evidence aplenty on opening night of Richard Chamberlain’s L.A. debut as George Bernard Shaw’s quintessential misanthrope, Professor Henry Higgins: the female lead role of Eliza Doolittle is being performed by the understudy (Meg Tolin), the sound system is gratingly tinny and inconsistent, the orchestra is out-of-tune, and the ensemble […]

  • The Twilight Zone review

    London Theater Review: 'The Twilight Zone'

    The potential for disaster was in evidence aplenty on opening night of Richard Chamberlain’s L.A. debut as George Bernard Shaw’s quintessential misanthrope, Professor Henry Higgins: the female lead role of Eliza Doolittle is being performed by the understudy (Meg Tolin), the sound system is gratingly tinny and inconsistent, the orchestra is out-of-tune, and the ensemble […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content