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Porthouse offering ‘beautiful’ ‘My Fair Lady’

6/19/2014 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

Kayce Cummings is Eliza Doolittle in Porthouse Theatre’s production of “My Fair Lady.”
Photo courtesy of Porthouse Theatre
CUYAHOGA FALLS — Porthouse Theatre has mounted a sumptuous production of “My Fair Lady.”

Director Terri Kent made so many correct choices that the audience could sit back, relax and know everything would be perfect.

The choice of script must be admired. “My Fair Lady” is more than 50 years old and the script, score and lyrics still hold up.

In this production, Jonathan Swoboda and Melissa Fucci accompanied the singers and dancers on two grand pianos on a balcony overlooking the stage. The show is a musical and the instrumentalists were completely visible. What a treat.

Scenic designer Ben Needham created a multi-level playing area that perfectly fit the various scenes of the show. The set provided ample space for the big dance numbers and, yet, seemed appropriate for the scenes with only two or three characters.

Costume designer S.Q. Campbell deserved her own private curtain call. The costumes for the Ascot Races could have stopped the show. The women wore only black and white gowns. Each was different and each woman had a spectacularly large hat. Eliza Doolittle wore black and white and had a gigantic red flower on her hat.

Choreographer John Crawford did excellent work. Crawford choreographed a rowdy dance for “Get Me to the Church on Time” and an elegant, sophisticated waltz for the embassy ball. The dance at the Ascot Race showed off the costumes and established the tone for the scene.

George Shaw wrote the original version in his play “Pygmalion,” which was adapted to the movies by Gabriel Pascal. Several composers and lyricists took a run at writing a musical based on “Pygmalion,” but only Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music) succeeded. Critics of the original production (the one with Julie Andrews) wrote that “My Fair Lady” is the perfect musical.

The cast is excellent. Kayce Cummings created an Eliza Doolittle that grows and evolves as the story unfolds. Cummings has a beautiful voice and acts well. She can show a change of emotion with only a raised eyebrow or a smile.

Greg Violand made Henry Higgins his own. He did not depend on the many Henry Higgins’ that have gone before him. Violand lets the audience see him make each discovery that moves the plot forward. He sings much better than Rex Harrison did in the movie. He seems completely content with the great deal of movement required by this role. 

Rohn Thomas evolved an Alfred Doolittle guaranteed to hold the audience’s eye and ear. Thomas sings and dances well and develops his character as his life’s situations change.

Porthouse Theatre usually offers first-rate productions.  This production of “My Fair Lady” is first-rate-plus. The show runs through June 28.

For tickets, call 330-672-3884.

 

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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