My Fair Kelli

This weekend’s issue of Parade magazine features an article by Kevin Sessums about the darling of the NY stage, Ms. Kelli O’Hara. It’s becoming quite clear that O’Hara is on her way to musical theatre stardom with her Tony nominated turns in The Light in the Piazza, The Pajama Game, and currently the smash-hit Lincoln Center revival of South Pacific. Well, aside from being delightful, charming and gracious, the actress discusses future prospects, such as her desire to be a mother and well, let me just quote the article here:

“But the buzz is that producers are competing to put together a full-fledged production of My Fair Lady centered around her recreating yet another iconic role: Eliza Doolittle.”

Out of many of the classic musical theatre roles, I feel that Eliza is the pitch-perfect role for this versatile singing actress. She already played the part last year to considerable acclaim in concert with the NY Philharmonic, and would be most ideal in a full-scale revival – moreso than other current soprano on the boards. I would go so far as to think that this could be the show that potentially nets her the coveted Tony award she so richly deserves. (Her Tony experience is starting to remind me of Kate Winslet at the Oscars – stellar performance, but just not her year).
The last time My Fair Lady, one of the sturdiest pillars of the Golden Age canon, was revived on Broadway was fifteen years ago in a Weissler-produced production at the Virginia (now August Wilson) that starred Richard Chamberlain and Melissa Errico and closed after 165 performances.

I feel that the musical should be given its due – the 50th anniversary came and went without much fanfare and from what I understand, NY producers are wary of the Cameron Mackintosh production due to its incredible size and expense. Frankly, I would prefer that the show be given the respect it deserves, with a full-scale revival utlitizing the original orchestrations by my friend and yours, Robert Russell Bennett. (Which our friends at Lincoln Center could do…) Also, I don’t like when people feel the need to tamper with the book. Take for instance the recent Mackintosh revival that played in London for two years and on tour in the US. The original climax of act one is when Higgins unexpectedly dances Eliza into the arms of Zoltan Karpathy, the ultimate gamble, as Karpathy’s expertise will prove whether or not Higgins and Pickering succeeded. (Case in point, your act finale leaves the audience hanging as to what will happen in order to bring them back for the second half). It is not when she leaves for the ball – in fact, it’s rather anticlimactic to have her go to the ball, break for interval, then come back for a ball scene. It would make more sense just to cut the “Embassy Waltz” than bastardize Lerner’s near-perfect libretto. And in my Dismounting the soap-box…

Now kids, who would you like to see in a revival opposite O’Hara? We’ve got a Higgins, Pickering, Freddy, Mrs. Pearce and Mrs. Higgins to fill. Aaaaaand go…