There are those who consider this classic by Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music) to be the quintessential American musical. There were few examples of the cerebral tuner to match this magnificently crafted 1956 adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion until Stephen Sondheim began reaching his prime in the 1970s. Pulling off this difficult show requires navigating a balancing act: capturing the trademark exuberance of the Broadway musical genre while giving equal attention to the literacy and wit of a Shavian masterpiece. Glenn Casale's charming and melodic staging comes closer than most to fully mining the material's dramaturgic riches. It's blissfully entertaining.
As much a play as a musical, My Fair Lady depends on impeccable acting. Casale elicits an array of colorful and zesty portrayals. None is more exhilarating than Glory Crampton's bravura take on the coveted lead role of Eliza Doolittle, the waif-like flower girl who makes a remarkable transition to regal lady. Her soaring soprano works magic with such vintage songs as "I Could Have Danced All Night," and she eloquently conveys the full range of Eliza's emotions. Playing opposite her as the impossibly priggish Professor Higgins, Mark Capri looks and sounds right, at least on the surface. It's easy to see why he was tapped for the role. Yet there's insufficient nuance and spontaneity in his interpretation. He comes across as less an insufferable blowhard than a slightly irritating twit; more stiff than stiff-upper-lip. A crackerjack supporting cast helps bridge that gap: Joseph Sacari's Cockney ne'er-do-well Alfred Doolittle; Damon Kirsche's dashing, silky-voiced Freddy Eynsford-Hill; S. Marc Jordan's amusingly befuddled Colonel Pickering, and Judy Jean Berns' worldly and wise Mrs. Higgins, who is almost a dead ringer for Gladys Cooper in the 1964 film version.
The chorus of scraggly street peddlers and snooty social butterflies adds to the triumph, singing, dancing, and acting with energy and moxie to spare. Choreographer Dan Mojica puts them through their gleeful paces, while music director–conductor Dennis Castellano superbly serves the evergreen score. The uncredited sets, Sharell Martin's costumes, and Tom Ruzika's lighting glisten with style. "Wouldn't it be loverly?" croons Eliza wistfully. Loverly it is.
"My Fair Lady," presented by McCoy Rigby Entertainment in association with and at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada. Tue.-Thu. 7:30 p.m., Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 2:30 & 8 p.m., Sun. 2:30 & 7 p.m. (Dark Sat. May 21, 2 p.m. & Sun. May 22, 7 p.m.) May 21-Jun. 5. $32-40. (562) 944-9801.