My Fair Lady – 2024

The Beautiful Version of Pygmalion

Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Eliza Doolittle has returned to the stage at the Shaw Festival, just where she belongs. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady is a glorious treatment of Shaw’s 1912 play. It will be running until the Christmas season at the Shaw Festival Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Co-Directors Tim Carroll and Kimberley Rampersad have done right by Shaw, Lerner and Loewe, treating this musical theatre favourite the way it should be. Sets, costumes, talent have all come together to keep this musical, which was first on Broadway in 1956, ever popular.

My Fair Lady is story of Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney girl, selling flowers on the streets of London more than 100 years ago. Phonetics Professor Henry Higgins accepts a challenge from his colleague Colonel Pickering to rid the flower girl of her Cockney accent and make her speak like a true English lady. Eliza wants to do this, so that she can work in a flower shop. She becomes the guinea pig in their experiment – they must correct her enunciation and grammar, teach her etiquette, and pass her off as aristocracy at the upcoming Embassy ball.

In the meantime, Eliza’s ne’er-do-well father shows up, wanting to be paid for whatever they are doing to her. Higgins is a confirmed bachelor and a male chauvinist, treating Eliza as chattel. Fortunately, Pickering models somewhat better behaviour for her. Higgins’ mother is understanding of Eliza and tries to prevent her misogynist son from taking advantage of Eliza’s naivety.

It’s been 13 years since My Fair Lady graced the Shaw stage, and it certainly seems like time to see it again. That 2011 production had a stellar cast, and this production has matched it in quality.

Kristi Frank shines brilliantly as Eliza: her transition from lowly guttersnipe to the belle of the ball is dazzling. A Pygmalion-themed show is not new for Frank: in 2017 she starred in Me and My Girl, where a young Cockney man is thrust into a position as a lord with a grand estate. He refuses to take the role, unless his girl, Sally comes with him. Frank was perfect as Sally attempting to  become posh. She is even more delightful as Eliza, stunningly attractive with a beautiful singing voice. Most of the songs will be familiar: “Just You Wait”, “The Rain in Spain”, and “Show Me”.

Tom Rooney offers a perfect take as Henry Higgins, totally oblivious about the rudeness of his comments or what he might be doing to Eliza. When Eliza comes out looking radiant, ready to attend the ball, he takes an extra look at her, so the audience knows that he isn’t completely insensitive.

David Adams is fascinating as Alfred P. Doolittle, Eliza’s father. He delights with his songs “With a Little Bit of Luck” and “Get Me to the Church on Time”. David Alan Anderson has fun with the Colonel Pickering role, especially when he’s calling the police to report Eliza missing. Taurian Teelucksingh proves popular as the lovelorn Freddy Eynsford-Hill. His beautiful rendition of “On the Street Where You Live” receives appreciative applause from the audience.

Sharry Flett is a delight as Mrs. Higgins. The audience loves her reactions to her son and his lack of manners. Flett also played Mrs. Higgins in the 2011 production where she seemed to enjoy putting her son in his place.

Special shout-out to the Cockney quartet for their singing, and to the rest of the ensemble for their high energy.

I have always been uncomfortable with the talk of physical violence in My Fair Lady. I’ve seen it staged many times, but I still wince when Higgins wants to hit Eliza and threatens her. This is probably more a comment on the 1950s when it was written rather than the Edwardian era it is supposed to reflect. But it’s time someone be authorized to remove those offensive lines.

And the questions remain – does Higgins ever learn to accept Eliza as an equal? He confesses to missing her, but will he overlook her lowly past, or use it against her? Can he actually change?  In this production, he seems to be moving in the right direction, and there were hints that they might have a romantic relationship, but I still worry about Eliza’s future.

However, if a musical can leave you with this much food for thought, it must be a good one! My Fair Lady is a fascinating story, with beautiful music and this cast presents it expertly.

My Fair Lady continues at The Shaw Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake until December 22. For tickets, visit or call 1-800-511-SHAW(7429).

Photo: Kristi Frank as Eliza Doolittle and Tom Rooney as Henry Higgins in Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady. Photo by David Cooper.

My Fair Lady
Book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Music by Frederick Loewe
Adapted from Bernard Shaw’s Play and Gabriel Pascal’s Motion Picture Pygmalion
Directed by Tim Carroll and Kimberley Rampersad
Musical Direction by Jonathan Monro
Choreographed by Kimberley Rampersad
Musica Direction by Paul Sportelli
Performed by Kristi Frank, Tom Rooney, David Adams, David Alan Anderson, Sharry Flett, Taurian Teelucksingh, et al.
Shaw Festival Theatre, 10 Queen’s Parade, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
May 4 to December 22, 2024
Reviewed by Mary Alderson


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