Douglas Anderson School of the Arts Delivers Remarkable Chemistry in “My Fair Lady”

A  Dual Critics Review

Douglas Anderson School of the Arts presented four performances of “My Fair Lady,” one of the best known and most beloved musicals of all time, during November 14 – 18, 2018. The musical, which premiered on Broadway in 1965, won six Tony Awards, which included the Best Musical award. The wonderful classic music and songs were likely unknown to most of the DASOTA students, as the last time it was produced on a local stage was almost ten years ago.

The story is based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” (written in 1912), with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. Eliza Doolittle (Natasha Dvorak) is an ill-manned Cockney lass who first encounters Professor Henry Higgins (Gannon Thomas), a linguist, while selling flowers on a rainy night outside the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Higgins is appalled by her speech and declares to his colleague Colonial Pickering (Cameron Schmitt) that he could turn this rough street seller from the working class into a graceful lady accepted by British society within six months. All that is required is that she must learn to speak properly. When Eliza does become Higgins’s pupil, both experience many challenges. The chemistry between the three actors was remarkable, and their singing was marvelous throughout the production.

One of the crowd favorites in every production is Alfred P. Doolittle, Eliza’s comical and philosophical father, who works as a dustman (trash collector) and disdains conventional morality, as he demonstrates by visiting Higgins to negotiate a fee for allowing Eliza to continue her studies. The character is richly portrayed by Liam Carroll and his “Get Me To The Church On Time” was an audience favorite.

Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, My Fair Lady, Marcy Appelbaum Photography

The show is filled with popular songs, which include “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “With a Little Bit of Luck,” “The Rain in Spain,” and “I Could Have Danced All Night.” If you had heard these songs done by the fine cast, you would have been tempted to sing along with them.

The spectacular costumes designed by Lauren Paragallo reflected the elegance of the Edwardian era, with women in long skirts and men at times in formal attire. The black and white fashions worn at the Ascot Racecourse were particularly striking. There was one exception: Doolittle wore clean clothing with pressed slacks, which his occupation as a dustman would have made difficult to maintain.

Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, My Fair Lady, Marcy Appelbaum Photography

“On The Street Where You Live,”  one of our favorite songs, was performed by Kane Carter as Freddy Eynsford-Hill, the society chap who became enamored with Eliza. His rendition of this classic was pure perfection.

The energetic and inspired dancing of the thirty-six students in the cast was choreographed by Ellie Potts Barrett, with Anna Beyer and Cameron Thomas as Dance Captains.

Also impressive in featured roles were Emma Lakey as Mrs. Higgins (Henry’s mother), Charis Ouk as Mrs. Pearce (Higgins’ housekeeper), and Gracie McCrea as Mrs. Eynsford-Hill (Freddy’s mother).

Rounding out this large cast were AJ DePetris, Christian Savin, Lennon Myers, Tess Therrien, Evan Gray, Anthony Llerandi, Aidan Jones, Jack Niemczyck, Alyvia Anderson (who was also the Assistant Director), Samantha Jenkins, Emma Towler, Christopher DuClos, Rhea Ailani, Anna Beyer, Chloe Cuff, Svetiana Davidenko, Samantha Jenkins,Caitlyn LaFear, Aja Farber, Graciela Fernandez, Mallorie Sievert, Cameron Thomas, Brandon Diaz Auggie Pulliam, Kyle Worrell and Rachel Jones.

Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, My Fair Lady, Marcy Appelbaum Photography

The marvelous set design by Nolan O’Dell portrayed a number of settings including a street scene in front of the Royal Opera, a tavern patronized by Doolittle, the Ascot Racecourse, and Higgins’ study.

The twenty-seven piece orchestra led by Musical Director Jeffrey Clayton performed to perfection for the entire three hours of the show.

This is the first time we have had the privilege of seeing a show by Director Joe Kemper at Douglas Anderson, although we have seen a number of productions he has directed at other local theatres, and have seen him in on-stage roles. He is an outstanding director and is especially adept at casting.  

Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, My Fair Lady, Marcy Appelbaum Photography

“My Fair Lady” tracked a number of themes, which included romance, class conflict, patriarchal subversion, and the importance of phonetics, and did so in a delightful way.

Special thanks go to Dialect Coach Bonnie L. Harrison, who had the entire cast transporting us to England with excellent accents. Special thanks also go to the members of the large stage crew, all dressed in black, who professionally and swiftly changed the scenery.

Additional Production Staff included Jennifer Kilgore (Lighting Design & Technical Direction), Rick Painter (Sound Design), Susan Peters (Charge Scenic Artist), Julian Newman (Student Technical Director), Savannah Roy & Hannah Freeman (Stage Managers), and Stephen D’Angelo (Assistant Stage Manager).

Next up for Douglas Anderson is “Brighton Beach Memoirs” opening on January 31, 2019 for six performances in the Black Box Theatre.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.