Review: ’54 Sings My Fair Lady’ at Feinstein’s/54 Below

By Jonathan Spira on 4 October 2016
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“My Fair Lady,” which won the Tony Award for Best Musical when it debuted in 1957, is one of my favorite shows from Broadway’s golden age for multiple reasons. First, I know the score by heart by virtue of having run the show as musical director in high school. Second, the storyline that has Professor Henry Higgins, a phonetician, giving Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl, speech lessons and passing her off as a lady, is brilliant and Higgins’ knowledge of accents, unrelenting passion for proper pronunciation, and focus on clearly speaking such sentences as “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain” played into my own interest in language. Third, a close family friend, Academy Award nominee Theodore Bikel, who was the original Captain von Trapp in “The Sound of Music” on Broadway, played Zoltan Karpathy, Higgins’ former student and current nemesis, in the film version.

The plot is so well known I need not go into detail but “My Fair Lady” is a show I’ll drop everything to see. Unlike George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” the play on which “My Fair Lady” is based, the musical is an exuberant love story with memorable comedic moments. When Feinstein’s/54 Below announced it would ask veteran Broadway stars to perform the show’s songs on stage, it was impossible for me to refuse.

Laura Michelle Kelly (“Mary Poppins,” “Finding Neverland,” “The King and I”) was enchanting as Eliza, the role originated by Julie Andrews on the stage. Her interpretation of “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” was, well, simply loverly and authentic, as was her rendition of “I Could Have Danced All Night.”


Josh Young (“Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Amazing Grace”) as Freddie Eynsford-Hill stood head and shoulders above the rest of the ensemble and transported me to the film version where Jeremy Brett played and Bill Shirley sung that role.

Meanwhile, English actor Gavin Lee (“Mary Poppins”) was a strong Alfred P. Doolittle and far easier on the eyes than Stanley Holloway to boot.

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