“My Fair Lady” may be “the perfect musical,” but the Phoenix Symphony proves it can get even better in its latest collaboration with Phoenix Theatre.
Under the baton of Broadway maestro Ted Sperling, the orchestra delivers a lush rendering of the Lerner and Loewe classic, while director Michael Barnard’s stripped-down staging is briskly entertaining, with a cast of singers that makes the light and lilting music shine.
The standout of this performance, which runs through Sunday, June 1, at Symphony Hall, is Jeannie Shubitz as Eliza Doolittle, the lower-class flower seller who engages the irascible Professor Henry Higgins to teach her how to speak like a lady. Her crystalline soprano is as “loverly” as one could wish in familiar numbers such as “I Could Have Danced All Night,” but she is equally impressive as an actress, communicating her character’s dreams and disappointments in a venue that ought to be too big for a musical but somehow is small enough for moments of intimacy.
Shubitz also shows great chemistry with her ” ‘Enry ‘Iggins,” Terry Lee Gadaire, who gives a delightfully prickly performance to go with honey-smooth singing voice. Ian Christiansen, as the besotted youth Freddy, serves up another highlight with a swooning “On the Street Where You Live.”
The extra-wide and very shallow strip of stage available to the actors does make for simplified choreography, so this “Lady” is somewhat lacking in visual impact in the high-style “Ascot Gavotte” and the raucous “With a Little Bit of Luck.” And the shortened script cuts into character development and loses some of the comic dialogue, as when the society ladies at the horse races mistake Eliza’s lowbrow slang for “the new small talk.” But you have to expect a bit of give and take in a hybrid production like this, and the musical muscle of the full orchestra is more than enough recompense.
The Phoenix Symphony with Phoenix Theatre: ‘My Fair Lady’
Reviewed Friday, May 30. Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 31 and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 1. Symphony Hall, 75 N. Second St., Phoenix. $18-$83. 602-495-1999, phoenixsymphony.org.
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