There is nothing fair about San Francisco Playhouse’s “Lady” as it’s nothing short of perfection.
“My Fair Lady,” an old fashioned Lerner & Loewe musical that isn’t performed often even though it won Oscars and Tonys, comes to San Francisco with a beautiful, scaled-down look and a vibrant cast. Without the opulence of its original expansive sets, this “Lady” still has a richness and elegance that doesn’t need a big budget to give it luster.
Tatjana Genser and Nina Ball have done an exemplary job as production manager and set designer, managing to turn the small Playhouse theatre into a London square, horse race stadium, Henry Higgins library and garden fit for an afternoon tea. They are as easily the stars of this “Lady” alongside actors Johnny Moreno and Monique Hafen who are both fantastic.
Moreno is actually the sexiest Henry Higgins I’ve ever seen. This new production tries to target a younger, hipper crowd and succeeeds with this perfect casting; people of all ages will find reason to give this old chestnut a try. Whether he is British or not, Moreno convinced me that he is high brow language expert Higgins who wagers a bet with a friend that he can turn a simple flower girl into a high society woman. Brass, confident and in fine singing voice, Moreno gets you to buy what he’s selling.
Haften’s British accent perhaps isn’t quite as flawless but she does a fine job between proper lady and cockneyed flower girl. She amazes whenever she sings – like an angel from heaven. Her transformation from plain to perfection isn’t a big stretch as she’s a beautiful woman no matter the make-up or costumes. But Hafen does a great job mastering Eliza Doolittle at every step and helping us believe she becomes refined – even in a fun scene with marbles in her mouth to help improve her speech.
Kudos go out to the entire cast of 11 (which on Broadway was over 30) as they all do fantastic in their multiple parts as they successfully maneuver the small stage – especially Randy Nazarian who has so much energy and talent as comedian, dancer and acrobat(!) that he blows you away.
Director Bill English shows his love for theatre in this production – thank goodness he’s also the Artistic Director of the Playhouse, so we are guaranteed more wonderful works in the future. In fact, this production is so enchanting and perfectly executed that it can be lifted off the Playhouse stage and moved directly to Broadway with the entire cast, sets, lighting and music from just two pianists intact. Do you hear that Shorenstein Hays Nederlander producers? It’s been almost 20 years since “My Fair Lady” graced the Broadway stage. This would be a welcome revival instead of the overdone “La Cage aux Folles” and “Annie.”
You absolutely must make a date with the “Lady.” Get tickets at www.sfplayhouse.org. While it plays through September 29, it has opened to universal acclaim and may be hard to find an available seat in the intimate theatre. Tickets are $40-50 each and curtain is either 7pm or 8pm – so make sure you make note of the time.
(Footnote: Not that a diner is the best dinner “partner” for an elegant production, but the Lori’s Diner on Sutter Street, across from the Playhouse, is having a tribute to Barbra Streisand with great photos and costumes of Streisand so worth checking out over a bite!)