If you love great musicals, if you love seeing a common girl turn into a princess, and if you love huge Broadway talent, get thee to Connecticut Rep's last offering in its Nutmeg Summer Series, starring Terrence Mann as Henry Higgins. It runs through Sunday, July 17.
Mann, who originated several huge roles on Broadway – Rum Tum Tugger in “Cats,” Javert in “Les Miz,” and the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast” – travels seamlessly from English orator to power singer in this Lerner and Loewe favorite. Eliza Doolittle is played by actress, model, cabaret singer Alix Paige, a winsome presence who holds her own, especially as she comes out of her flower girl shell and turns into the feminist George Bernard Shaw envisioned in “Pygmalion,” the play about English classism, language and manners that spawned this great show. She delivers a one-two punch message to the men around her in “Show Me,” sung to clueless but sweet suitor Freddy, and “Without You,” to the befuddled Professor Higgins.
For his part, Mann has got to be one of the most lovable Higgins who ever hit the stage. His agile musicality – he literally traipses on furniture in “The Rain in Spain” – brings out the full throttle of these songs. Imagine, a Higgins who sings! And yet, in “I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face” near the end, Mann brings something new and vulnerable to the English linguist who is unaccustomed to recognizing his own arrogance.
Scene-stealer alert: Look out for the charmingly bad dad Richard Ruiz, who plays Alfred P. Doolittle. Yes, you've seen this show, live if you're lucky, certainly on film over the years and probably in educational productions. And you know that “With a Little Bit O' Luck” and “Get Me to the Church on Time” are terrific numbers. But Ruiz adds his own stage business and singer/actor showmanship to this part. He's always incorrigible, always entertaining.
And for the pop culture fan, soap opera favorite Eileen Fulton, who portrayed Lisa Miller Grimaldi on “As the World Turns,” plays Higgins' mother, with a wry wit and grace.
The CRT production, directed by Vincent J. Cardinal, who came to UConn a year ago to head the Rep and the Drama Department, gives you the feeling of a very fun summer stock engagement. In fact, the Mann family is prominent. Tony-nominated dancer and actress Charlotte d'Amboise, married to Mann and starring as Roxie Hart in the “Chicago” revival now on Broadway, and her brother, New York City Ballet legend Christopher D'Amboise, choreographed the show. Two street urchins are portrayed by children named Mann. The fact that this family likes to play together must be a factor in the unmistakable warmth on stage.
The show is approaching 3 hours with an intermission, but you won't mind. It moves. And during intermission, check out the exhibit of women's art in the gallery next to the concessions. Can we ever get enough art and theater in our lives?
“My Fair Lady” runs daily at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre with evening performances and weekend matinees. Single ticket prices range from $10 for children and students to $39. The theater is located below Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of the University of Connecticut in Storrs. Free parking is in Lot 9 across from the Jorgensen Center; paid parking is available in the North Garage. For tickets and more information, call 860-486-4226 or visit the Connecticut Repertory Theatre site.