The works of George Bernard Shaw have been adapted, reworked, and reimagined countless times since the playwright's 1950 death, but none have enjoyed the fame of "My Fair Lady," the story of a phonetics professor who decides to transform a poorly spoken Cockney girl into a fair and presentable young woman.
The famous and oft-parodied story opens on a rainy night outside of a London opera house, where "flower girl" Eliza Doolittle drops a bouquet in the mud and erupts into an erratic fit when she notices an older man taking notes on her speech patterns. This gentleman turns out to be certified linguistics expert and thinker Henry Higgins, who is conducting a social experiment and deduces that Eliza would be the perfect subject.
Higgins seeks only confirmation of his idea that social classes are determined by differences in speech patterns, but soon finds himself in an unlikely and mentally taxing romantic relationship with the strangely alluring Eliza, whose quirks and mishaps are well documented throughout the two-hour show.
Despite the fact that its source material is undoubtedly dated, North Hills High School's presentation of "My Fair Lady" is lively and refreshing all around. The sets were colorful, the auditorium was small and intimate, and the pit band was precise if a bit ordinary. Professor Higgins' study, in which most of the musical takes places, boasts the most impressive set of all; its detailed bookcases and cozy lighting add a real depth to the stage.
The real charm of North Hills' production, however, comes from the sheer enthusiasm and charisma of its cast, especially junior Malcolm Burke, who steals the show as the shameless but endearing Alfred Doolittle. Burke's triumphant rendition of "Get Me To The Church On Time" is unbridled fun, and his character's interactions with the other leads, namely Professor Higgins, are the funniest moments of the show.
Leads Michael O'Brien and Stephanie Higgins, who play Professor Higgins and Eliza respectively, also supply standout performances, especially on musical numbers like "You Did It" and the notorious "The Rain in Spain." Though the two actors play a horribly mismatched couple, their onstage chemistry is immediately noticeable and supplements their roles very well.
Overall, the show is nothing less than enthralling; the North Hills actors have a great deal of stage presence and are dying to please their audience. Rarely does a high school musical come along where the now-obligatory standing ovation at the conclusion of the show is not only deserved, it is demanded.
The Kelly Critics is a joint program of the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh CLO's Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musicals, in which students at Kelly schools review musicals at other Kelly schools. Reviews are edited by senior theater critic Christopher Rawson (email@example.com), a long-time Kelly Awards judge.
First Published April 22, 2012 3:15 PM