For the fifth installment of the Broadway at Lyric series, the Lyric Opera of Chicago dipped back to Lerner and Loewe’s classic “My Fair Lady,” which swept the Tony Awards when it first debuted in 1956 and also collected eight Oscars for its silver screen follow-up. The tried and true musical is often considered one of the genre’s most beloved, but when it’s paired with a 57-person cast, a 37-piece orchestra conducted by David Chase and nearly 300 costumes by Anthony Powell, it’s nothing short of magnificent.
While “My Fair Lady” fans may cast their vote in varying directions as to Eliza’s most deserving love interest, the Lyric presentation presses all the right buttons and lands with an unexpected conclusion after nearly three luxurious hours.
Leading the charge as Eliza Doolittle is Lisa O’Hare, the expert English actress and singer (as seen on multiple touring editions), along with the always articulate Richard E. Grant (“Withnail and I,” “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” “Downton Abbey,” “Game of Thrones”) as Henry Higgins. Though the tale of this ill-mannered, poverty-stricken flower girl being molded into royalty by the egotistical professor of phonetics is surely familiar to many, the stature of this production and the pristine performances are additional treats for repeat attendees and first timers alike.
In addition to the carefully rehearsed cast, which also includes Nicholas Le Prevost as Henry’s sidekick Colonel Pickering, Bryce Pinkham as Eliza’s hopeful suitor Freddy and Donald Maxwell as her alcoholic father Alfred, additional credit goes to masterful director Olivier Fredj (who brings Robert Carsen’s esteemed Paris presentation to American audiences for the first time). Although the Civic Opera House’s stage is much larger than many of New York or Chicago’s standard Broadway houses, the massive cast and Tim Hatley’s elegant staging ensures little blank space and constant visual appeal.
Another major selling point for “My Fair Lady” (regardless of the venue or scale) is the soundtrack, known for gems such as “On The Street Where You Live,” “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” “Get Me To The Church On Time” also gets some glossy dance steps courtesy of choreographer Lynne Page that promote it to genuine showstopping status.
By the time “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face” rolls around, it’s apparent that the complicated and often times contentious relationship between the teacher and his primary pupil is more than strictly professional. While “My Fair Lady” fans may cast their vote in varying directions as to Eliza’s most deserving love interest, the Lyric presentation presses all the right buttons and lands with an unexpected conclusion after nearly three luxurious hours.
“My Fair Lady” continues at the Civic Opera House through May 21. For additional details, visit LyricOpera.org.