In 1956, librettist-lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe unveiled one of the most literate and tuneful musicals in Broadway history, now considered a benchmark in the book-musical craft. Their seamless integration of the sophistication and wit of George Bernard Shaw’s classic comedy “Pygmalion” with a ravishing score made “My Fair Lady” a glittering work of art that remains timelessly appealing. Downey Civic Light Opera’s rendition rises to the occasion, yielding one of the company’s finest offerings of recent seasons.
Captivating us from first scene to last, director Marsha Moode’s staging capitalizes on the riches of this absorbing musical play. A superb cast meets the challenges of bringing Shaw’s colorful characters to life. As Eliza Doolittle, the bedraggled Cockney flower girl in Edwardian England who’s miraculously transformed into an elegant lady with impeccable diction, Charlotte Carpenter delivers a performance of versatility and great warmth. Her lilting soprano is wonderfully suited to Loewe’s glorious melodies, particularly in “I Could Have Danced All Night,” and “Without You.” Playing opposite her as blowhard Professor Henry Higgins, Joseph Culliton puts a fresh spin on a role strongly identified with Rex Harrison. Richard Gould is a delight as the blustery but kindly Colonel Pickering, and Katherine Henryk parlays the brief role of Higgins’ plucky socialite mother into a comedic gem.
George Champion is energetic and enchanting as Eliza’s ne’er-do-well father, Alfred Doolittle, and he’s beautifully supported by William Crisp, Glenn Edward, Michael McGreal, and Kit Wilson as Alfred’s high-kicking barroom cronies. Jason Marquez’s soaring baritone sounds exquisite in the sublime romantic ballad “On the Street Where You Live.” Ann Peck McBride excels as the outspoken housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce. A spirited ensemble cast completes the spell, keeping the proceedings vibrant and fun, courtesy of their amusing character vignettes and their singing and dancing prowess. Gitana Van Buskirk’s sparkling choreography ranges from stylishly tasteful to rousing. Eddy Clement’s music direction and conducting bring out the best in the treasured score. Sets rented from Musical Theatre West are attractive, and lighting from Design Partners Inc. adds to the production’s classy sheen.
Presented by Downey Civic Light Opera at the Downey Theatre, 8435 E. Firestone Blvd., Downey. Oct. 2–18. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m. (562) 923-1714.