Review: 'My Fair Lady' by The Opera House Players, Inc.

Nancy Sasso Janis

  • Connecticut Critic
  • Connecticut Critics Circle

“There even are places where English completely disappears; in America they haven’t used it for years.” - Henry Higgins

Broad Brook, CT - The Opera House Players, Inc. is presenting ‘My Fair Lady’ at the Broad Brook Opera House through Nov. 27. The players are a volunteer-based non-profit that will celebrate their 50th anniversary next season. The volunteers were especially gracious to audience members at my first visit to this historic venue in this neighborhood in East Windsor CT. Page 3 of the program is not an ad, but a page of special thanks to some of the volunteers. It was the first time I have heard an announcement (done in a Cockney accent, no less) about what to do if the volunteer fire department next door to the theatre should get a call. The stairs to the second floor have a stair chair lift for those patrons that might need it. 

‘My Fair Lady’ is graced with a book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner with music by Frederick Loewe and is adapted from the George Bernard Shaw play and the film ‘Pygmalion.’ This production boasts artistic direction and choreography by Anna Giza with music direction by Kelly Sharp M.Ed, a teacher at Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and also with the Ensign-Darling Vocal Fellowship at the Bushnell. 

The director notes that this musical often referred to as the most popular musical of all time is celebrating its 60th year, despite there being a rocky road to getting it written. Ms. Giza played Eliza Doolittle with this group, then known as The St. Martha Players, back in 1989. She invites the audience to travel back to 1912 London where a poor Cockney flower seller is transformed into a Mayfair Lady. She reminds us that Mayfair was one of the richest districts in London at the time and that the title of this musical comes from the nursery rhyme “London Bridge is Falling Down,” in which a person with a Cockney accent would pronounce “Mayfair” as “My Fair.”

Ms. Giza knowledgeably directs her large cast and makes good use of the vintage space of the opera house. The entire cast filed into the house to take their places after the lights went down and some of the principal actors used the aisles to enter and exit at times. The set designed by Francisco Aguas was changed often by the actors for the various locations, with large panels that folded onto themselves. Costumer Moonyean Field collected some wonderful period ensembles for this production, with interesting millinery and hair. The choreography throughout was lots of fun, with the “With a Little Bit of Luck” especially good and the four-piece orchestra was just enough. 

Robert Lunde is an endearingly comic Col. Pickering and Dennis J. Scott made his OHP debut and was funny as Eliza’s father Alfred P. Doolittle. Erica Romeo had some priceless looks and probably the best costumes as Henry’s mother and Deborah Jacobson in her OHP debut ran the house as Mrs. Pearce. UCONN graduate Michael Graham Morales was charming in the role of Freddy Eynsford-Hill who falls hard for Eliza. Reva Kleppel played his mother. 

Members of the ensemble that stepped up to play many other roles included Jenn MacPherson, Tammy Young Cote, Scott Flanagan, Tom Schulz, Joshua Prouser, Elizabeth Clayton, Joshua Hamre, Suffield HS freshman Jack Flanagan, Aimee Meunier, Deb Brigada, Patricia Covino, Raymond Boisvert and stage manager Emma Connell.

As Eliza Doolittle, Caelie Flanagan made her OHP debut in one of her dream roles. The Suffield HS senior gave everything she had to the role and sang every one of her numbers beautifully. Her Cockney accent was appropriately annoying, but was so thick in the first act that it was almost unintelligible. The woman seated behind me whispered to her husband “I can’t understand a word she is saying” just as I was thinking the same thing. It got a bit easier to discern the lines as it went on, and as soon as she began to sing, the issue disappeared. Of course her speech in the second act was perfectly English. 

Gene Choquette took on the role of Henry Higgins and had the audience with him from his first line. Mr. Choquette holds a BFA in drama from NYU’s Tisch Schools of the Arts and studied at the Circle in the Square Theatre School in NYC. Professor Higgins is a great role and this fine actor made the most of every moment. 

‘My Fair Lady’ is a long show, so be prepared to be leaving the opera house quite late. Next up by the Opera House Players is ‘The Robber Bridegroom’ directed by Robert Lunde in February and ‘Titanic’ in May. 

Pictured:  Henry Higgins (Gene Choquette), Eliza Doolittle (Caelie Flanagan), and Colonel Pickering (Robert Lunde) Photo by  © Viviana's Photography