Reimagined 'My Fair Lady' Is Fresh and Funny

by Will Demers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday May 13, 2022

Shereen Ahmed and cast members of The Lincoln Center Theater Production of Lerner & Loewe's "My Fair Lady"<br>
Shereen Ahmed and cast members of The Lincoln Center Theater Production of Lerner & Loewe's "My Fair Lady"
  (Source:Joan Marcus)

As Providence Performing Arts Center heads into the final stretch of its first season after the COVID shutdown, they offer for their penultimate show another re-imagined classic. This one is not as dire as the recent, stripped-down "Oklahoma." Instead, it's a spirited and rather youthful "My Fair Lady."

The Lerner and Loewe musical has been around the block several times at this point, having been adapted from George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play "Pygmalion" and in 1956 took home six Tony Awards before becoming the then-longest-running musical in Broadway history. This production, helmed by Barlett Sher (who has reimagined classic musicals for Lincoln Center Theater over the past few decades) is quite energetic. Nothing is changed in the music or dialogue, but wildly kinetic sets and inspired choreography make this a fun experience.

East Providence native Kevin Pariseau (Col. Pickering) is absolutely delightful in his role, and he nails the aged bachelor nicely. Colin Anderson gives us a rather youthful Higgins; and though he's clearly closer to Eliza Doolittle (Shereen Ahmed) in age, it somehow works (this does change his relationship with the Colonel slightly). He has a delightful singing voice, a departure from those casting to evoke Rex Harisson's "spoken" singing style. Ahmed, who hails from Baltimore and was cast in this tour back in 2019, understudied Eliza on Broadway.

She takes on the role with gusto and a sweet voice, and credibly transforms from a"guttersnipe" to a lady. Her transformation is quite fantastic. She also wears a lovely replica of Audrey Hepburn's black and white dress from the film version during the "Ascot Gavotte" horse race, which is pleasing to the eyes as well as ears. Both Martin Fisher as Alfred P. Doolittle and Leslie Alexander as Mrs. Higgins have grand times with their portrayals, as is Sam Simahk as the lovesick Freddy.

It is wonderful to see such diversity in the cast, as well as having one of our own locals make a splash in this production. Unfortunately it suffered from some sound issues during the first act. However, by the second, most of the problems were fixed.

But on the whole, this "Lady" is fresh and funny. It is easy to see why after six decades it remains a favorite to so many.

"My Fair Lady" is running through May 15 at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) 220 Weybosset Street, Providence RI 02903. For information or tickets call 401-421-2787 or visit www.ppacri.org.