Wouldn't it be loverly to sit abso-bloomin'-lutely still and enjoy a brand-new production of "My Fair Lady"? Then you're in luck as it's opening Friday at The Empty Space.
Musical theater (and classic movie) lovers are likely well-acquainted with the tale of Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from Professor Henry Higgins, a phoneticist, in order for her to pass in society as a lady.
Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison established the roles on Broadway with Harrison again donning the top hat to star alongside Audrey Hepburn in the 1964 film.
Like many other theater aficionados, director Ron Warren was knowledgable about the source material.
He wrote in an email, " ... I’ve seen the film more times than I can count, I can sing — or passably hum — all the songs, and quote it all day long."
Along with a fondness for the show, his background in linguistics — he has a master of arts from Fresno State — drew him to directing.
"Like Higgins, I am a phonetician, although my life has recently taken me from linguistics to fiber arts," he wrote referring to The Twisted Skein, the shop he owns with his sister, Heidi Haarsager.
"I still love language, and sharing points of view that people haven’t considered. Language is so integral to our interpretation of what an identity is that our biases and prejudices often go unquestioned."
For this show, Warren said he wanted the cast to come to it fresh.
"When we began the rehearsal process, one of the first things we discussed was that while 'My Fair Lady' is a cultural touchstone, we have to approach it as though it were completely new to us, and find out which themes we wanted to address and what questions we wanted to answer for ourselves."
Aiding the process was the fact that some actors had a little studying to do with the classic musical.
Warren wrote, "... for some of the principle cast this is the first real exposure they’ve had to the material at all. Our Higgins (Tevin Joslen) and Alfie (Eliza's father, played by Perrin Swanson) came in with almost no exposure to the iconic film performances, creating truly original interpretations."
The musical also found a gem with its leading lady.
"Tessa Ogles has worked a type of magic and found an authentic and powerful interpretation of a character she knew very well," Warren wrote. "Henry Higgins aside, Ogles is responsible for forging Eliza Doolittle into a new woman."
Along with directing, Warren plays Colonel Pickering, Higgins' friend and fellow phoneticist. The cast also includes Alex Mitts as Eliza's beau, Freddy Eynsford-Hill, Cathy Henry as Henry's mother, Mrs. Higgins, and Julie Gaines as housekeeper Mrs. Pearce.
"My Fair Lady" opens this weekend and runs Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 20. This production marks the return of VIP seating, which had been absent from more recent, intimately staged shows at The Empty Space. A table ($60) seats two and comes with a bottle of champagne.
Those who pick the less-expensive seats can still feel swank choosing from a variety of themed drinks: Loverly (Malibu rum, Midori and pineapple juice), Rain in Spain (raspberry peach sangria with vodka, peach schnapps, fruit and rosé), The Linguist (gin and tonic with a splash of grapefruit juice) or the Flower Girl (mango nectar, limeade, strawberries and Sprite), which can be made alcoholic with the addition of rum. There is also classic English tea served hot with milk and sugar.