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Last updated on April 23, 2014 at 21:24 EDT

‘Fair’ Pretty Close to Perfect

September 23, 2008

By Nicole Warburton Deseret News

“MY FAIR LADY,” Pioneer Theatre Company, through Oct. 4 (801-581- 6961 or www.pioneertheatre.org), running time: about 3 hours with one intermission

It’s been called the perfect musical, and the Pioneer Theatre Company’s rendition of “My Fair Lady” certainly hit the mark.

The cast and crew delivered a delightfully funny and sharp performance during their opening night this Friday, led by the sweet but strong portrayal of Eliza Doolittle by New York-based actress Elizabeth Stanley.

For those who need a little explanation, Doolittle is the play’s protagonist, who agrees to let a self-absorbed linguistics professor, Henry Higgins (Paul De Boy), teach her how to speak like a lady. She is transformed from a dirty and defensive Cockney flower girl to a strong and confident woman.

For Stanley, she was spot-on as she helped her character make the transition into a lady. A highlight of her performance was the awkwardly humorous scene at the Ascot Racecourse, when Doolittle is first presented as a member of the high-class English elite and shocks some of them with her humor and crass storytelling.

Before then, Stanley sang a sparkling version of the well-loved song, “I Could Have Danced All Night” when her character finally learns to speak good English.

Other sharp performances included De Boy’s version of Henry Higgins. He captured the arrogance of Higgins, a self-proclaimed bachelor-for-life, but also showed reluctant emotion when his character finally admitted he must let go of his pride in order to have Doolittle in his life.

Broadway professional Jeff Brooks, who plays Alfred Doolittle, was hilarious and expressive, particularly as he pranced around the stage during the songs, “With a Little Bit of Luck” and “Get Me to the Church on Time.”

Perhaps the only complaint about the show is its longer-than- average first act (nearly three-quarters of the show), but that was included in the original musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, who adapted “My Fair Lady” from George Bernard Shaw’s play, “Pygmalion.”

The musical debuted on Broadway in 1956 and was later made into a movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. It won eight Oscars.

Utah’s version also deserves an award. It was humorous, fun and family-oriented with top-notch performances. Just be sure to be prepared for the long first act.

E-mail: nwarburton@desnews.com

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