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'My Fair Lady' has the look and sound of a winner
To say Myriah Riedel was a perfect fit for playing Eliza Doolittle in Ovation!’s upcoming production of “My Fair Lady” might be understating things a bit.
Eliza Doolittle, the Cockney flower girl who is taught how to be a lady in George Bernard Shaw’s classic play “Pygmalion,” is described in the script as 21, long brown hair, attractive.
For Riedel, that was check, check and check.
Then came the costumes for the period piece, set in London, 1912. Rented from Seattle’s
5th Avenue Theatre, which put on “My Fair Lady” two decades ago, they arrived in box after box and wowed the cast and crew of the Bainbridge musical theatre.
Riedel has nine costume changes in the play, including a beaded ice-blue silk empire waist gown, complete with opera gloves, tiara and blue velvet formal coat that she wears to the ball when she’s mistaken for a princess.
In a show with an expansive cast and large adult and youth ensembles, the production team was looking at a daunting list of alterations for those splendid, scene-setting costumes.
For Riedel, though, hand fit glove.
She marveled about the seemingly same-sized young actress who must have played Eliza Doolittle for the 5th Avenue Theatre. Looks like they were cut from the same cloth.
“Everything pretty much fit me,” Riedel laughed.
Riedel has easily slipped into the role of the title character, as well.
A veteran of more than
30 shows, including Shakespeare plays and many musicals, Riedel said getting down the high English accent for the show was easy.
The Cockney accent took about two-and-a-half weeks, she said, adding that she had too dial it back a bit when it became too authentic.
“People couldn’t understand what I was saying,” she said.
It was what the show itself said, however, that drew the attention of Ron Milton, Ovation!’s artistic director and the director of the theatre’s upcoming production. “My Fair Lady” opens Nov. 30 and nine performances will be presented through Dec. 16 at the Bainbridge High School Theatre.
“I wanted to pick something that was a Christmas time show that had a great message,” Milton explained.
“I like doing musicals that enhance the human soul,” he said.
It’s a very big and beautiful show, he said, with great music and a great message.
“The show is a lot about communication and the way people relate to each other,” Milton said. “It’s very comedic. There’s lots of fun in the show, and at the same time it’s got a great message, creates pathos. And the costumes in it are absolutely drop-dead gorgeous.”
“It’s a feast for the eyes as well as music that lifts the soul, as well as a storyline that lifts the head and heart,” he said.
It’s also complex.
“It’s almost like a full three-act play buried inside a two-act musical,” Milton said.
It’s a challenging show for the actors; there are nine to 11 songs, with some on stage taking on 400 or 500 lines. Memorization is just the start.
“When you are an actor you go from emotional state to emotional state; you have to have an emotional state for every one of those lines,” Milton said.
Joining Riedel at the center of the cast are Dan Engelhard as Professor Henry Higgins, Nelsen Spickard as Alfred P. Doolittle and Bob McAllister as Colonel Pickering.
The show’s director said audiences will be impressed with Engelhard and Riedel’s work in the central roles.
“He creates the role of Higgins masterfully,” Milton said.
“And she is such a great actress and demonstrative on stage,” he said of Riedel. “She’s delightful, she’s charming, she’s funny. She’s absolutely fascinating to watch, both as a director and just as an audience member.”
“Myriah is an unbelievable pro, and so is Dan and so is Bob,” added Milton, who also serves as technical director and set designer for the show, which boasts a cast and crew of roughly 80. “All three of them work in unbelievable unison in creating both the humor and the dramatic moments.”
The musical, written by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, is an ambitious undertaking for Ovation! Musical Theatre. Todd Hulet will provide musical direction and choreography, and the show will have a live orchestra. At a dozen musicians, it’s the largest one the company has used.
“This is a gigantic show to pull off in a relatively small space,” Milton said. “And I think that we’re up to the task. I think that planning for this and thinking about this for the past four months, if you plan right and you rehearse it, then the show will come off without a hitch.”
And, of course, the look of the show itself will not disappoint.
“The cut of the costumes is beautiful and gorgeous right down to the last button. It’s going to be quite a feast for the eyes,” Milton said.
“I would guess there are over $200,000 worth of costumes, and I think that’s conservative. We have hats that would fill up most houses — just the hats,” he added.
The story itself is a familiar one, made famous in part by Julie Andrew’s turn as the Cockney flower girl on Broadway and a film version that starred Audrey Hepburn as Eliza that won an Oscar for Best Picture in 1965.
Even so, Milton noted that many who have seen “My Fair Lady” have come away unsatisfied with the conclusion, all the way back to Shaw’s original work.
“The ending has always been criticized,” he said, adding that he has taken a bit of artistic license that audiences will enjoy.
“We’ve tweaked the ending a little bit,” he said. “I’m a romantic at heart. I did take a tiny bit of liberty there.”
Tickets are $27 for adults, $22 for seniors (65 and older), students and military (active or retired) and $19 for children 12 and under. Advance tickets can be purchased at Winslow Drug or by calling 206-842-0472.