Filichia Features: My Fair Lady Goes to School!

Filichia Features: My Fair Lady Goes to School!

By Peter Filichia on August 09, 2018

"Miss Manning! We have to do My Fair Lady!"

So said I to my summer theater camp teacher when I was 15. I'd just returned from a trip to New York with my parents where I'd seen my first Broadway show. I was so high from the experience that I wanted to duplicate it.

(And I knew the perfect lad to play Higgins ...)

Miss Manning half-closed her eyes, gave me a condescending smile and purred "Peter -- kids can't do My Fair Lady."

Oh, really? Lena Manning's negative notion was utterly dispelled last month when 50 talented teens and tweens did Lerner and Loewe's masterpiece.

Actually, they didn't q-u-i-t-e do My Fair Lady as we know it. This was the pilot program of a "School Edition" that's being tested for secondary education markets by iTheatrics.

Don't confuse "School Edition" with MTI's "JR" series, where full-length Broadway musicals are shaved to an hour or so to accommodate middle-schoolers. "School Editions" only eliminate about 20 minutes. Thus Freddy loses a verse of "Show Me" and Higgins doesn't get to sing some of "A Hymn to Him" or "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." And yet, the "Hungarian Rhapsody" lyrics that didn't make either the original or London cast album renditions of "You Did It" were included.

This School Edition is still being evaluated, so it may wind up shorter or longer. But because the youngsters were so wondrous in it, I believe that your high school could conquer the entire show. If you're saying "(Insert name) would make a great Higgins" and/or "Imagine how wonderful (fill-in-the-blank) would be as Eliza," don't wait. Do My Fair Lady School Edition now before those students take their leave.

Timothy Allen McDonald, the founder and CEO of iTheatrics, included many amusing flourishes in his staging. When Higgins noted that "Hebrews learn (their language) backwards," he had the boy spin around.

When Higgins complained about a woman in "I'm an Ordinary Man" -- that when "you go to see a play or ballet and spend it searching for her glove" -- he dropped to his knees and mimed that hunt. The lad playing Colonel Pickering obliged by lifting up his feet to facilitate the quest.

After the ever-so-uppity Mrs. Pearce told Higgins that he has a female visitor, he gave his -- "Does she have an interesting accent?" -- with the relish that a bachelor usually displays when he asks "Is she gorgeous?" after offered a blind date.

One could effectively argue that Pickering is a too old to jump over a stool, but seeing the lad do just that on the lyric "All alone you hurdled every obstacle in sight" during "You Did It" was great fun.

In "With a Little Bit of Luck," when Doolittle reached the lyric "You can have it all and not get hooked," he happened to spot a passerby with an umbrella; he grabbed the "hook" handle of it and suddenly had a new brolly.

You'd better have as great a leading lady as McDonald did. Eliza has morphed into the most difficult part for a musical theater actress, for she must show a young woman at many different stages: common flower-seller, struggling student, achieving pupil, frustrated graduate, angry rebel and finally a self-actualized fair lady.

That penultimate stage is the most satisfying. Note that Freddy doesn't truly fall in love with Eliza until she tells him off. That's a good lesson for all girls. Stand up for your rights, and you'll be more respected.

Similarly speaking, Eliza only gets Higgins' admiration after she castigates him: "Eliza, I like you like this!" he says, as if giving her his approval is the greatest compliment anyone would ever give. McDonald had his actress step forward which indicated that she was about to kiss him. Considering that there's a new ending in the current revival, anything now seems possible in the way Eliza handles Higgins. But it's all for the best that she didn't give him that expected kiss.

How I wish that Miss Manning could have lived to see this splendid iTheatrics production. Afterward, though, I would have had to work hard to keep myself from confronting her, half-closing my eyes, giving her a condescending smile and purring "Lena -- kids can indeed do My Fair Lady."


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