Being Fair to Arizona Broadway Theatre's My Fair Lady
I'm writing to apologize for having taken you to a dinner theater production of My Fair Lady. To be fair, you did agree to go with me to Arizona Broadway Theatre. And we were both excited to see Jeannie Shubitz in the lead — that's why we were so keen on going, remember? And she was awfully nice in the role, wasn't she? Not to put too fine a point on it, but I can't be held entirely responsible for everything else that transpired, either on or off stage, that night. Just a reminder.
You do remember my saying the word "Peoria" to you when I told you where the theater was located, don't you? And my explanation about how a good theater critic can't just go to Equity houses every weekend — one must swing out and head toward the suburbs, hoping for the best. We lucked out, I promise you: Remind me to tell you about the time I sat through The House of Bernarda Alba in a Maryvale strip mall.
And we did get to watch Jacqueline Gaston as Mrs. Higgins; that part was nice. Her performance proves that even a tiny role like this one can stand out if the actor is worth her salt. No one in our town plays moneyed outrage like Miss Gaston.
The band was in fine form, too, weren't they? It's too bad that the performers were so badly miked, and that the acoustics in that giant room were so dreadful. I thought Philip Peterson's vocals were quite good; it isn't easy to sell "Why Can't the English," but he did, thanks to that big, booming voice and nice comic timing — very important in any Professor Higgins. And when I overlooked the tinny amplification of his nice, warm vocals, I found I could even like "I'm an Ordinary Man," one of Lerner and Loewe's weaker tunes in this celebrated musical.
The costuming was top-notch, wouldn't you agree? Especially the black and white daywear for the Ascot sequence. And Laurie Trygg's choreography made everyone look like a hoofer, which can't have been easy to do with a cast this large. It's too bad that Jimmy Ferraro's direction didn't keep a brisker pace. All those double takes! All that extra hamming!
I am sorry about that annoying woman who sat immediately behind us and talked straight through both acts. I know you'll forgive me for telling her to "shut the fuck up" halfway through "The Servants' Chorus"; perhaps you can find it in your heart to understand why it was also necessary for me to throw my programme at her and to call her that dreadful name. She had it coming. We may have been in Peoria, but this was not karaoke night at Fat Tuesday's.
Still, nothing could detract from Jeannie Shubitz's performance as Liza. Isn't that what we were there for? Try to remember that, and her especially engaging coming-out scene at Ascot. If you find yourself thinking about how we were sitting way, way in the back of the house (I'm guessing ABT doesn't get a lot of theater critics to visit; they probably don't realize that we like to sit close enough to the stage to actually see the performers) or that the first act lasted two full hours (it isn't supposed to have), just remember Jeannie Shubitz. And remind yourself that you finally have seen and heard one of the epic scores in the history of the American musical. It could have been worse. Trust me.
P.S. I promise you, that fart smell in the theater was the Brussels sprouts that were served just before we arrived.
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