Lifestyle

‘My Fair Lady’ opens May 7 at the San Juan Community Theatre

Top photo: Desirae Whalen stars as Eliza in
Top photo: Desirae Whalen stars as Eliza in 'My Fair Lady.' Bottom photo: From left, Joy Van Camp, Roberta Leed, Elizabeth Schubert and Bert Dayton rehearse the opening scene of 'My Fair Lady.'
— image credit: Top photo: San Juan Community Theatre. Bottom photo: Jane K. Fox

A classic is a tricky thing to perform. A show like “My Fair Lady” has so many years of public adoration behind it, a new performance cannot help but attract high expectations.

“It’s been a lot of fun to be part of, but it’s hard too,” says Julie Hagn, who acts in the upcoming San Juan Community Theatre production. She describes how she loves the story, but is not immune to the sense of responsibility that comes with performing one of the best-loved musicals around.

Director Susan Williams is confident that the team and cast behind their performance is well equipped to carry the weight of people’s affection. “I have never worked with such a talented group of people,” she says, describing how the quality of the performance is due to the many talents that make up the whole.

To transform the community theater, Williams teamed up with a range of artists, actors, and musicians who work to make each aspect of the auditorium as London-like as possible.

The sights and sounds of the show are designed to delight the viewer. The set is traditional and maintains the original Edwardian air. Designer Brad Welch constructed it in a circular fashion to ensure the scene transitions were smooth and unencumbered by prop changes.

Set painter Lyne McPhersen sets the place aglow with color, accented by the creative lighting, and costume facilitator Anita Welch has attended to every detail of the cast’s wardrobe.

“They’ve done an outstanding job on costumes,” says Williams, noting that those who love Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot dress in the film adaptation will not be disappointed.

“Lisa Duke, the choreographer, has had such fun with the dancing, it’s not easy working with people who are not trained dancers,” Williams adds.

Indeed, she says that overall, the cast members have adapted beautifully to the physical challenges of the show. Dialect coach Deb Langhans has worked with the performers for the past eight weeks, perfecting their English accents. “The truth is that those types of accents require vocal coaching for six months,“ says Williams, explaining how well people have caught on to the variations of Cockney and polite English diction. “Time is always a major struggling point with theater, you always wish you had more time.”

The musical side of the piece is attended to by Musical Director Dorothy Baker and an orchestra of local musicians. Williams notes that the art of “My Fair Lady” lies in the sophisticated melding of music and language. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion,” Williams values the way Shaw’s themes and words are not lost to musical comedy.

“It was adapted (as a musical) by Alan Jay Lerner (music by Frederick Lowe). A lot of times when adapting a literary work or a comic drama, the playwright’s intentions and words are lost. That is not the case with 'My Fair Lady.' ”

All in all, Williams is satisfied that the legacy of the show is being carried on with high-caliber effort. “This is an amazing group of people, dedicated and willing. I think that’s really going to show on opening night.”

Audiences can bring their high expectations to the theater, because they are bound to be exceeded. “The show is in loving hands,” Williams says.

— "My Fair Lady" opens May 7. For tickets, call 378-3210 or visit www.sjctheatre.org.

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