"My Fair Lady" pleases with first show

<strong>LOGAN—</strong> The cast of Utah Festival Opera &amp; Musical Theatre pleased audiences Friday night with their first performance of “My Fair Lady,” with laughs, witty jibes, and a small dose of heartache.

Theatregoers made their way up a red carpet and past the Crimson String Quartet from Logan High School into the lobby, where free chocolates from the Blue Bird were waiting in honor of the main character, Eliza Doolittle, played by Vanessa Ballam.

Ballam’s comic timing was perfect as a simple Cockney girl caught in a bet between linguistic professor Henry Higgins (Kyle Pfortmiller) and Col. Pickering (Lee Daily), who try to pass her off as a lady at a ball after six months of voice lessons. Although it took a couple of scenes for Ballam’s act to be convincing – getting used to her exclaim “aaahh-oooowww” every time someone came near her took time – she came out in the end as an endearing, strong character.

If the audience had any doubts about how funny the show would be, they were positive after a scene in the first act in which Higgins and Pickering take Eliza to the opening day of the Ascot races, and Eliza bumbles her way through a conversation where her dialect is perfect, but her grammar and etiquette still need obvious work. Ballam’s performance seemed to grow more enchanting as the show continued, and will likely evolve in the same way as the show matures as well.

A not-surprising but gratifying performance of the night was Michael Ballam’s depiction of Alfred Doolittle, Eliza’s father. After a bumpy start in the first scene where energy was low, Michael and two ensemble cast members did a great job of bringing the show together “With A Little Bit O’ Luck,” and the energy carried through the rest of the night.

Speaking on the ensemble cast, the acting support and dance numbers were well timed and well executed. Being in a show where some of the best scenes are reserved for a handful of actors can be tough, but the supporting cast was definitely at its best in all scenes.

Pfortmiller and Daily played an entertaining duo of sweet and sour. Daily, as Pickering, always cautioned Pfortmiller’s Henry Higgins character to “Be reasonable!” as Pfortmiller pushed Eliza to the limits with practicing her vowels and phrases.

Pfortmiller’s Higgins, while reserved, is detestably likeable. He calls Eliza all sorts of insults relating to her station and intelligence, but aptly comes through in the end as a person who feels pain and sadness. As such, romance portrayed between Eliza and Higgins is small and not overwhelming, so the conclusion is believable.

The set is also believable. Robert Little’s set designs are simple, yet convey the sense of depth necessary for a crowded city such as London. It was particularly gratifying to see period styles and Neoclassical revival architecture depicted as it should, with well-placed props that gave the show balance and did not overcrowd the stage.

From the choreography, to stage direction, to dialects, 2012’s “My Fair Lady” is a performance the UFOMC can be proud of and should get even better as the season continues.

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