The greatest Broadway musical of all time? My Fair Lady . Hands down. Not only does it have George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion as a foundation, but also the brilliant teamwork of lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe. The character of Henry Higgins, immortalized on stage and screen by Rex Harrison, is one of the most memorable in all of musical theater. Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle (defined on Broadway by Julie Andrews) is the perfect counter-protagonist. The show is witty, exhilarating and romantic without being schmaltzy. It's also pure, joyous entertainment.
So how does Moonlight Stage Productions, under the direction of Steven Glaudini (its enterprising producing artistic director) do with My Fair Lady ? It's hard to go wrong with this show, and Moonlight (staging it for the first time since 1986) does not. It's true that too many songs reprise, and the dance sequence accompanying "Get Me to the Church on Time" is much longer than need be, and Hilary Maiberger's (Eliza) Cockney accent needs work. But musical director Elan McMahan and a marvelous orchestra do Lerner and Loewe proud, and "costume coordination and execution" (citing the program here) by Roslyn Lehman, Renetta Lloyd and Carlotta Malone is a dazzler.
The strength of this production, however, is Hank Stratton, playing Higgins, and playing him nothing like Rex Harrison, which would be oh-so-tempting. Confident, athletic and, for the buttoned-up Higgins, dashing, Stratton makes the iconic character his own. Maiberger is lovely and a fine singer, especially when she takes her voice higher (she should do so more often). Jamie Torcellini does what any talented performer does with Alfie Doolittle—goes to town.
The songs speak for themselves: "I Could Have Danced All Night." "With a Little Bit of Luck." "On the Street Where You Live." "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." Keep going? Why not? "The Rain in Spain." "I'm an Ordinary Man." "Get Me to the Church on Time."
On opening night, there were some teens and 20-somethings in the audience probably seeing My Fair Lady for the first time. Bet it won't be their last.
My Fair Lady runs through Aug. 30 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. $15-$52. moonlightstage.com
God of Carnage : When two boys get into a fight, their parents get together to calmly discuss what to do about it, but the discussion ends up being anything but calm. Opens Aug. 22 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
The Man Who was Thursday : In a play adapted from a novel, set in early-20th-century England, an undercover officer infiltrates a new friend's anarchist group. Runs Aug. 21 through 24 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com
A Midsummer Night's Dream : A Greek forest is alive with fairies, magic potions and the pursuit of love in one of William Shakespeare's best-known comedies. Presented by Pickwick Players, it opens Aug. 22 at Off Broadway Live in Santee. pickwickplayers.net
Regrets Only : A knee-slapping comedy about a gay fashion designer who challenges a straight acquaintance who happens to be advising President Bush on the ban on gay marriage. Opens Aug. 21 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
Fiddler on the Roof : With the Russian Revolution on the horizon, a humble milkman struggles to keep his family's traditions alive and marry off his three daughters. Through Aug. 24 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
Quartet : Three former opera singers, living at a home for aged musicians, are joined by the wife of one of them, and the four set out to perform one last concert. Through Aug. 24 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Words by Ira Gershwin : A musical tribute to George's older brother, who penned the lyrics to numerous classic tunes from the 1920s through the 1950s. Through Aug. 24 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
My Fair Lady : On a bet, a professor endeavors to transform an unrefined girl into a lady, and it later occurs to him that he's smitten with her. Presented by Moonlight Stage Productions, it runs through Aug. 30 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. moonlightstage.com
Pageant : Each show's audience picks a winner from six contestants in a beauty-and-talent competition in this musical comedy. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through Aug. 31 at The Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
The Full Monty : The stage version of the 1997 British film has six unemployed Buffalo steelworkers putting on a strip show to raise money—and their spirits. Through Sept. 7 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
Les Miserables : In this classic musical, a poor Frenchman spends 19 years in prison after stealing a loaf of bread, only to escape and get caught up in a revolution under an assumed identity. Through Sept. 7 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
The Two Gentlemen of Verona : Two friends leave Verona for Milan, where, natch, they get caught up in a love—er, rectangle? Through Sept. 14 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Dearly Beloved : A trio of Texas sisters plan a wedding. Will it be Antebellum-themed? Will it be a big ol' barbecue? Will it go off at all? Through Sept. 21 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Crime Pays : A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net