Nancy Sasso Janis
- OnStage Connecticut Critic
"With a little bit of bloomin' luck!"
NEW BRITAIN CT - Connecticut Theatre Company in New Britain is only in its third season of operation and has planned an ambitious 2016 season. Their first musical this year is ‘My Fair Lady,’ which was adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s play and Gabriel Pascal’s motion picture ‘Pygmalion.’ The book and lyrics were written by Alan Jay Lerner with music by Frederick Loewe. Michael J. Bane directed for the first time at a community theatre this show that he has always wanted to direct and he writes in his director’s message that the piece has been around for an impressive sixty years.
Of course the story follows the arc of Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower seller who takes speech lessons from Professor Henry Higgins, a pompous phoneticist, so that she may pass as a lady. Sometimes called the “perfect musical,” it certainly has beautiful music that always moves the story along effortlessly, even if the first act is very long. In the case of this production, it offers two leading roles in which two extremely talented community actors can shine.
Christiane Morel Olson was truly fabulous in the role of Eliza. With her lovely soprano voice she sang her Cockney solos annoyingly well and then shifted beautifully into her second act (more ladylike) “Show Me.” Her all-important speaking voice made as convincing a transformation as her outward appearance. It was a pleasure to watch.
Patrick R. Spadaccino worked for the first time with this company to take on the role of Henry Higgins and his performance was outstanding. A true triple threat, he matched his co-star in every way and made the most of his familiar solo pieces like “Why Can’t the English?” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.”
Richard G. Williams was a fine Colonel Pickering and tenor Joshua Ellenberg sang perfectly as the adoring Freddy Eynsford-Hill. Iesha M. Rose was a commanding and often disapproving Mrs. Pearce and Joan Hedquist had some great comic lines as Higgins’ socialite mother.
Jodi Dickson played Freddy’s mum. Waterbury teacher Doreen Lopez covered many roles but was quite regal as the Queen of Transylvania. Tullio Milani was rival professor Zolton Karpathy and Chris Kulmann caught my eye as a butler and Charles. Kudos to the guys in the male quartet for “Wouldn’t it Be Loverly?”
Eliza’s dustman father was played by the one and only Chuck Stango as only he can. As he messaged me from backstage, the fun role of Alfred P. Doolittle is one that he has always wanted to do. “I go on, do my bit...and get off,” he wrote. I looked forward to every time he came on the stage, appreciated how he mastered his dance steps and now have “With a Little Bit of Luck” stuck in my head.
The company may have been a bit tentative at times, but not for the required waltzing, nor for Doolittle’s signature “Get Me to the Church on Time.” The spectators at the Ascot Race, decked out in black, white and cream, were a sight to behold.
Mr. Bane did very well in his community theatre directorial debut with the assistance of Duane Campbell. This is a large and challenging production with lots of set changes and the team pulled it off. William Hively served as music director of these iconic tunes and choreographers were Erin Frechette and Renee J. Sutherland (appearing in ‘American Idiot’ at Downtown Cabaret Theatre.) The costumes and millinery designed by Rose Masselli Morse were numerous and lush and lit nicely on this stage.
‘My Fair Lady’ runs one more weekend at The Repertory Theatre on Norden Street in New Britain and is worth the trip.The remaining shows for this season include ‘Once on This Island’ in June, ‘Boeing, Boeing’ in August, ‘Sweeney Todd’ in October,’ and ‘The Christmas Schooner’ in December.
Photo by Connecticut Theatre Company