This one’s for the people who may have seen me today waltzing inelegantly down the street singing On The Street Where You Live. Or possibly at the moment you spotted me I was on I Could Have Danced All Night. Or then again, maybe it was With a Little Bit of Luck.
I’m sorry. I really am. But it’s not my fault.
Blame Royal City Musical Theatre. If they hadn’t put on such a stellar opening night of My Fair Lady on Saturday night, those songs would not have implanted themselves so firmly in my mind.
It seems that a vast chunk of the city’s population was at opening night with me, so odds are I’m not the only one suffering from Lerner-and-Loeweitis today. If you weren’t in the crowd, then I can only make one recommendation: get your tickets now for the next possible opportunity.
It’s a bit of a double-edged sword to stage a musical as beloved as My Fair Lady: on the one hand, everyone loves it so much that you know they’ll come; on the other hand, it’s been done so often and so well that how are you going to stand out in the crowd – and how are you not going to disappoint those diehard fans of the Rex Harrison-Audrey Hepburn movie version?
Knowing RCMT, however, I had faith they were up to the challenge. And, as always, they were.
Their 26th annual production at the Massey Theatre once again elevated the already high bar the New Westminster-based theatre company sets for itself.
The evening began with the promise of good things to come the first moment the curtains opened. The first glimpse of Brian Ball’s stunning set design promised a production full of elegance and visual appeal. Add in the costume design of Christina Sinosich – as always, spot-on in every way, from the Cockney street scenes to the starched elegance of Ascot to the opulence of the Embassy ball – and you had a background with such style that it almost wouldn’t have mattered if the performance had no substance.
Naturally, however, that wasn’t the case. Once again, the RCMT company rose to the occasion with aplomb, with a well-trained and talented chorus offering gorgeous group song-and-dance numbers, and each of the leads bringing charm, stage presence and vocal prowess to the stage.
New West’s own Thomas Lamont as Freddy was a clear audience darling – his rendition of On the Street Where You Live very nearly lifted the roof off the Massey Theatre, and more than one person could be heard leaving the theatre asking, “Who was that kid?” His to-die-for tenor voice and his aw-shucks boyishness were the perfect combination for the loveable sap who falls hard for Eliza.
John Payne as Alfred P. Doolittle was another audience favourite, oozing charisma as he sang and soft-shoed his way through such perennial crowd-pleasers as With A Little Bit Of Luck and Get Me To The Church on Time.
Likewise, Michael Wild’s gentlemanly demeanour and understated humour were perfect for Col. Pickering.
But it was the duo at the heart of the show who most impressed. Tracy Neff brought powerhouse vocals to the role of Eliza and struck just the right balance between attitude and vulnerability as the flower girl underwent her metamorphosis and emerged a fine lady. Right next to her every step of the way was Warren Kimmel, who didn’t so much play Henry Higgins as become him. The role simply fit him, like a comfortable cardigan and a warm pair of slippers, and each moment of his performance unfolded with such ease that you forgot it was, in fact, a performance. He doesn’t act Higgins – he breathes him, speaks him, dances him, and in every way simply lives him.
Artistic director Valerie Easton and director Max Reimer made the most of the abundant humour in the script, and choreographer Suzanne Ouellette brought life and vitality to even the tiniest aspects of stage movement. Add in the tight, polished orchestra under the baton of James Bryson, and there simply were no weak links in this production.
If you’re wondering why people around the city are randomly breaking into song and dance numbers as they go about their daily business – well, like I said, blame Royal City Musical Theatre.
A performance like that one just can’t help but be contagious.
So, when can I buy my tickets for next year's Fiddler on the Roof?
- See more at: http://www.newwestrecord.ca/entertainment/my-fair-lady-hits-all-the-right-notes-1.1821688#sthash.7qZbGB0d.dpuf