My Fair Lady (Cygnet Theatre)

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One of my first memories of theatre as a child was seeing My Fair Lady at Starlight Theatre. My grandmother and I just happened to be in Balboa Park, and I begged her to buy tickets on a whim. Needless to say, I enjoyed the show so much that I was thrilled when Cygnet Theatre announced they would be performing this “loverly” musical adapted from the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.

My Fair Lady captures the story of a young woman, Eliza Doolittle (Allison Spratt Pearce) who has a dream of working in a flower shop with a steady income if only she were more ladylike. She meets Professor Higgins (Sean Murray), a phoneticist, who dislikes her poor use of the English language. Wanting to improve her English for better opportunities, Eliza asks Higgins for speech lessons. After much persuasion, especially from his pal Colonel Pickering (Tom Stephenson), Higgins agrees. In six months, Eliza is transformed into a proper young lady with poise and eloquent speech.

As a child, I admired Eliza’s strength and determination in fulfilling her dream. Revisiting this musical thirty years later, my initial memory of Eliza has remained, but I have discovered something new. Eliza gains a mind of her own and certainly speaks it gracefully, specifically after Higgins and Pickering brag about how “they did it” without recognizing Eliza’s efforts. Although Eliza has become a “fair lady” she keeps her independence and spunky spirit even after realizing that Higgins will always view her as a flower girl and nothing more. She also comes to the conclusion that she no longer needs him. Higgins is surprised to learn that Eliza feels this way and that deep down he has grown fond of her. In the end, they find a way to maintain their relationship.

Allison Spratt Pearce as Eliza Doolittle did an amazing job with a cockney accent. Funny Ron Choularton, who played Eliza’a drunk dad, did a little bit of show stealing.

Thanks to the Cygnet Theatre for bringing this charming musical to the stage so that I could relive one my wonderful childhood memories.

The Pianist of Willesden Lane (San Diego REP)

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Where did San Diego REP find an actress who plays the piano brilliantly? Mona Golabek is amazing, and her one-woman play, The Pianist of Willesden Lane, is filled with gratitude, honor, and passion. It’s storytelling at its best as Golabek narrates part of her Jewish heritage with a grand piano in a supporting role.

The piano sits center stage with a gleam of light hitting its open lid, simply waiting to be played. The large gold picture frames that surround it soon hold projected images of film and photos. From family portraits, to bookshelves, to a train station, to footage of WWII.

Golabek plays the role of her mother, Lisa Jura, and creatively uses her voice to characterize those who were part of her mother’s upbringing. Each classical composition played is fine tuned to represent Jura’s growth and love of music. When not seated on the piano bench, Golabek moves across the stage revealing her mother’s escape on the Kindertransport, a train that transported Jewish children out of Nazi territory. Her journey ends at a hostel in London on Willesden Lane, where long lasting friendships are made and the dream of becoming a pianist is fulfilled.

The Pianist of Willesden Lane is based on the book, The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen. Adapted and directed by Hershey Felder.

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Theatre Geek and Mona Golabek.

Othello (The Old Globe)

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The Old Globe kicks off its Shakespeare Festival season with Othello, a classic tragedy that is worth seeing, especially with the leads performed by top actors.

Richard Thomas is fantastic in the role of Iago, who betrays Othello, played by Blair Underwood. Mr. Thomas exudes such a wicked aura that one becomes in awe of his character as he goes to great lengths to destroy the Moor of Venice for naming Cassio as the top lieutenant instead of Iago himself. Filled with anger and jealousy, Iago, the master manipulator, convinces Othello that his wife, Desdemona (Kristen Connolly), is being unfaithful with Cassio, which sends Othello in a downward spiral.

Although Mr. Underwood’s Moorish accent sounded as if he were part of a Reggae band, his overall performance was dramatic and filled with emotional energy.

Like most Shakespeare plays in the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, the set is simplified, allowing the actors to make use of the entire stage. The design of a corrugated foiled wall closing in on Othello as the play progresses is a creative aspect.

In the end, as Othello realizes his insecurities lead to his downfall, one can’t help but despair that Othello couldn’t see through Iago’s lies.

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Richard Thomas (Iago in Othello at The Old Globe) and Theatre Geek

Photo at top: (from left) Richard Thomas as Iago and Blair Underwood as Othello in Shakespeare’s Othello, directed by Old Globe Artistic Director, Barry Edelstein. Photo by Jim Cox.