IRVING -- Lyric Stage has done some dandy revivals of musical classics in the past four years, thanks to a donor who ensures that the group is accompanied by full orchestras, which never happens on a professional level anymore. The shows have won awards and accolades to spare, but none has been as cohesive as its latest impressive feat, My Fair Lady.
Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner's masterful adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion is one of the crowning achievements of musical theater but rarely receives a staging that lives up to potential. Here, with a 38-piece orchestra (larger than the original Broadway production) and original orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett and Philip J. Lang, music director and conductor Jay Dias peels the onion on a lush score. Director and choreographer Len Pfluger matches him with one of the best ensemble casts ever assembled in these parts.
Kimberly Whalen was a local star who most recently did a stint off-Broadway in The Fantasticks. She has a solid soprano and pixie beauty that have worked well for ingenue roles, but she takes on something more complex in Eliza Doolittle, the flower girl who receives a linguistic and physical makeover by Professor Henry Higgins (Fort Worth's J. Brent Alford). The dialect, the transformation, the courage to stand up for herself: She nails it.
Alford, one of the area's great leading men of a certain age, relishes in portraying uptight Brits. His Higgins this time is even more developed, still the cocksure learned man.
Rounding out the main characters are first-rate turns by comic genius Sonny Franks as Alfred Doolittle, Gary Taggart as Colonel Pickering, Juli Erickson as Mrs. Higgins, and Daniel R. Johnson, a rising star with an interesting vibrato and a powerful tenor, as Freddy Eynsford-Hill.
The costumes and set (rented) are knockouts, but none of that would matter as much if the rest of the show weren't a musical lover's dream come true.