By Merle Exit
Social class, human behavior and the relationship between the sexes are the basis for the Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady,” the famed musical comedy based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion.” Theatre By The Bay, located at Bay Terrace Garden Jewish Center, gave director Ovi Vargas the opportunity to turn the show into a hit for the company.
As the action begins, opera patrons are waiting under the arches of Covent Garden for cabs. In their midst, Eliza Doolittle (Michele Linder), a Cockney flower girl, literally runs into a young man, Freddy Eynsford-Hill (Jonathan Schuyler). After spilling her bunches of violets and selling one to Colonel Pickering (John Canning), she notices a man, Henry Higgins (Frank Josephs) copying down her speech. Introducing himself and explaining that he is a phoneticist, Higgins declares that in six months he could turn Eliza into a lady by teaching her to speak properly, using his theory that “class” is dependent upon one’s speech. Higgins then invites Pickering to his home in London so that he can witness the process of Eliza’s education.
Eliza’s father, Alfred P. Doolittle (Sam Hunt), a drinking man, is searching for money for his habit and often depends on Eliza, who shares her profits with him. She wants to get a job at a florist shop, but needs speech lessons to do so. Pickering wagers that Higgins cannot make good on his claim and volunteers to pay for Eliza’s lessons.
While staying at Higgins’ home, a rigorous makeover of Eliza’s manners, speech, and dress begins in preparation for her appearance at the Embassy Ball. Meanwhile, Alfred Doolittle is informed that his daughter has been taken in by Professor Higgins. Does he take advantage and make a profit?
“In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen” and “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain” are the phrases that Eliza must conquer. She does and Mrs. Pearce (Ruth McKeown), the housekeeper, insists that the excited Eliza go to bed for a much needed rest. When Eliza finally makes it to the ball, she reconnects with Freddy, whose heart she has captured. Much of the rest of the plot centers on whether it will be Freddy or Higgins that Eliza chooses.
Vargas chose an able cast of nine main characters and 11 per the ensemble. Josephs and Linder had the hardest tasks of singing and acting. Josephs convincingly summoned up memories of Rex Harrison, who origially played Henry Higgins on Broadway, while Linder’s abilities brought Vargas’ ideas to life.
Canning gave a fine and professional performance, while McKeown and Lila Edelkind, who portrayed Mrs. Higgins, although having smaller parts, were obviously well-seasoned actors.
Aside from a few minor gaffes, the show was well-polished. Other than Vargas, the largest of kudos has to go to: the stage crew Steve Edelkind, Joanne Elder, and Helene Schwartz; Stage Manager Barbara Koenig; and Prop Mistress/Set Designer Lila Edelkind. Applause also goes to the musical director, Alan Baboff.
There are two more performances of “My Fair Lady,” Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. The Bay Terrace Garden Jewish Center is at 13-00 209th St. in Bayside. For more details, or to purchase tickets, call (718) 428-6363 or go to www.theat