By Elizabeth Buckingham
Back at Shea’s, My Fair Lady opened its curtains to Buffalo crowds! As an addition to the planned shows of 2020, My Fair Lady definitely did not disappoint. From the complexity of the set to the attention to detail revolving around the accents and costumes, the show was truly a sight to see. The unmistakable passion the performers brought to the stage really helped bring this story to life.
My Fair Lady first aired on stages back in 1956 and has had a long run throughout the years. Adapted into almost two films and over 16 different casts, bringing the show around the nation and the world, the cast and crew keep up the same emotion and energy it had 66 years ago.
We are brought back to London in 1912, where social class was on almost everyone’s minds, and the distinction between the rich and the poor was immense. From their clothes to the way they speak, and to the way they act around each other, we learn there is some prejudice towards the poor. Complaining about this in the song “Why Can’t the English?”, we are introduced to Professor Higgins, who is basically insulting a woman named Eliza Doolittle. Professor Higgins is a phonetician, someone who studies speech sounds, and his interest is peaked when Eliza comes to him asking for speech lessons. Her goal? To be able to speak formally to become an apprentice at a floral shop. In a pretty misogynistic fashion, Higgins agrees, practically making his lessons with Eliza a game by betting with someone named Colonel Pickering that he could get her speaking perfect formal English in a little less than 6 months.
We follow the grueling journey that Eliza goes through to become a modest, idealized version of her rambunctious, stubborn self that Higgins wants her to turn into. Sure, she finished her lessons and easily fooled a whole palace of dukes and duchesses, but at what cost? Eliza had devoted herself to learning for a better future, but she felt that all the work she put in would go to waste. Not to mention the fact she had been given no credit for her hard work. All of that was used to glorify Professor Higgins.
From an audience perspective, the way the cast conveyed the story thus far was very well done, and the cast made it obvious that while it looked pretty from afar, the foundation was definitely cracking in the characters’ lives. The director, Bartlett Sher, did an amazing job conveying this idea to the audience and made it understandable too. From our view, we could all realize why Eliza began to act, from Higgin’s perspective, “ungrateful.” Sometimes it can be hard to convey this idea, but the cast and crew did it perfectly.
Through the rest of the show, Eliza becomes more and more defiant, and others around her are beginning to notice and everyone turns on Higgins. What started as a manipulative, misogynistic setup for a love story had turned into a story where one succeeds the other, who has fallen from their podium. In her song, “Without You” near the very end of the musical, Eliza tells Higgins to his face that she doesn’t need him anymore. His misogynistic views finally caught up to him and as Higgins ran home, he realized that he had grown attached to Eliza and seeing her around. However, we never really got to see how it ends, so it leaves the audience to wonder what really happened with Higgins.
Overall, the cast and crew did a fantastic job putting on My Fair Lady at Shea’s. It has definitely set the bar for future shows that are coming in the future. Even with the addition of a set malfunction, Shea’s handled the situation very professionally. To add on, kudos to the actors who remained in character while the set wouldn’t work before Shea’s paused the show. They made do with the issue and improvised the rest of the scene. The cast and crew did an amazing job nonetheless, and it truly made for a good show to see. Shereen Ahmed, who played Eliza Doolittle, Laird Mackintosh, who played Professor Higgins, and every other actor and person in the crew really brought this story to life. The dedication each and every person there showed.