Quote of the Day: It’s Au and Garn that put her in her place, not her wretched clothes or dirty face. Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak? This verbal class distinction by now should be antique. If you spoke, sir, instead of the way you do, Why you might be selling flowers too. from Henry Higgin’s song “Why Can’t the English?” in Lerner and Loewe’s musical My Fair Lady, on stage now in Pequot Lakes, MN, a GLAPA (Greater Lakes Area Performing Arts) production.
The songs that Lerner and Loewe wrote for the leading man Henry Higgins are more rhythmic and poetic than lyrical and melodious. They give those songs to Eliza, the poor flower girl, forced to stay in her lower class because her speech makes her sound uneducated. Her songs are prettier and more tuneful (think, “I Could have Danced all night”). Her song (with the ensemble) “Wouldn’t It be Loverly” has always been a favorite of mine. “All I want is a room somewhere, far away from the cold night air, with one enormous chair, Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly? …Lots of chocolate for me to eat…someone’s head resting on my knee…Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly?” It’s her longing for comfort and safety and a few simple pleasures in life that draws me into her character and the story.
But, Higgins, he’s not a very likable character. You don’t really root for him. Pickering has more compassion (and the better lines, funny and kind). Although, the two prance around after Eliza finally properly says the line, “The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain,” like they’re the cock of the walk. “Look what we’ve done,” they’re saying, “We’ve transformed a woman.” When you break it down, it’s rather a sexist story.
Eliza might be uneducated and have condemning speech patterns, but she’s no dummy. She sees the boys strutting their stuff, ignoring her, patting themselves on the back, and she’s furious. She tells them off, then leaves. She doesn’t need them. She has all the tools that she needs to survive and thrive. It’s Higgins who realizes that he needs her and misses her, or at least her face. I’ve often wanted to rewrite the ending to this story. It’s not your typical musical. It’s not a love story at all. It’s about a transformation, a look at society, how we have prejudices, and keep people in their place.
The cast and crew at GLAPA did a great job of bringing My Fair Lady to life on the stage of the Pequot Lakes high school. Mark Leidl plays a stiff and pompous Henry Higgins. M. Hollis Ford is a quirky and kind Pickering. Jenny Kiffmeyer plays the sassy and smart Eliza Doolittle. M.S. Bernard plays Eliza’s father, Alfred, a goofy, selfish, drunk character, who often steals the scenes. Sharon Hartley plays Mrs. Higgins, as well as some ensemble roles, and she is truly delightful. In addition to her on stage roles, she was also in charge of costumes, along with Debra Binda. The costumes were absolutely loverly! They made some, found some, and rented a few from The Fred Rogers Costume Collection at the Guther Theatre. (I recognized Eliza’s hat from their Summer 2015 production.)
When it comes to watching classic musicals like My Fair Lady (especially ones that I’ve seen multiple times), I go to hear the songs. The folks at GLAPA did a great job. Wendy DeGeest is wonderful at creating choreography. I’m always impressed at how she can work with a cast who are just regular folk, teachers, and accountants by day, and performers by night, with varying degrees of theater experience, especially in dance. Well done, again, Wendy! Gary Hirsch directed this massive musical. The entire cast and crew did a great job.
You can see My Fair Lady in Pequot Lakes through November 19, 2017. Go to the website for GLAPA, or call 218-568-9200, or take your chances at buying tickets at the door. I expect a full house for the final three performances this weekend! Nov. 17 & 18, 7:30 pm, and Nov. 19, 2:00.
Journaling Prompt: Have you ever experienced a work of art, a book, a painting, a movie or musical in a new way, from a different perspective? Did you change your mind about how you feel about it?