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Temple Theatre’s Production of “My Fair Lady” Is Purely Professional and Completely Entertaining

Professor Henry Higgins (John Allore) tutors Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle (Haley Best-Jernigan)

Professor Henry Higgins (John Allore) tutors Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle (Haley Best-Jernigan)

Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady, which has been called “the perfect musical” is one of our all-time favorites. Since its 1956 Broadway opening wherein it became the longest-running musical of its time, it still ranks 20th among all long-running shows. It is currently being performed at Temple Theatre in Sanford, and it is spectacular.

One of the outstanding aspects of Temple’s version of My Fair Lady is the costumes — especially Linda Clark’s hats for the Ascot Gavotte — however, the myriad of fabric materials and designs by Clark and Peggy Taphorn were also stunning.

But while we’re on the visuals, the sets were also notable and amazingly quickly changed from dreary Cockney East End to the sedate parlor of Professor Henry Higgins, with its walk-up bookcases and Victorian furnishings (fainting couch, included), compliments of set designer Steven Harrington and scenic artist David Rawlins.

Peggy Taphorn directs this intensely satisfying production, the expert musical direction is under the hand of David Almond, and the precise and delightful choreography is by Jacob Toth.

The star of My Fair Lady, of course, is Eliza Doolittle, played at Temple by Haley Best-Jernigan, who brings a voice of operatic dimension and a polished acting skill to the role. She commands the stage whether she’s caterwauling like an alley cat or purring like a lap kitten. Her transition from gutter-squawking flower girl to poised and elegant lady borders on the magical.

Jacob Toth's choreography for Temple Theatre's production of "My Fair Lady" is delightful

Jacob Toth’s choreography for Temple Theatre’s production of “My Fair Lady” is delightful

“Enry ‘Iggins,” the imperturbable professor of dialects and phonetics is portrayed by John Allore, who has been impressing audiences in the area for several years. He manages a masterful handling of the song “Why Can’t the English?” (speak English), and is poignant and deadpan with “I’m an Ordinary Man.” Eliza is the not only character who grows a bit in the show, and Allore shows us Higgins’ softer more mature side with “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.”

Mark Woodard brings to Alfred P, Doolittle, the charming drunken ne’er-do-well who sired Eliza, the élan and joie de vivre that the character requires, overwhelming the stage with his presence and the ladies with his debonair savior faire. His cavorting with the beer steins, along with the other dustmen in “With a Little Bit of Luck” is fun and clever.

Freddy Eynsford-Hill, the young suitor who becomes enamored of Eliza, is played by Jacob Barton, who belts out “On the Street Where You Live” with a surprisingly powerful and rich voice. He transmits his connection with Eliza from the moment he first sees her in the opening scene.

Lynda Clark gives us Mrs. Higgins, the upper-crust mother of Professor Henry Higgins, bringing a maturity and wisdom to her role, understanding her son’s social transgressions and dealing with Eliza as a mother might, with warmth and straight talk.

Colonel Pickering, an expert in Indian dialects and a long-time admirer of Higgins’ work, is played with the properly unpompous, relaxed stiffness of an old men’s club habitué by Jim Wicker. The Ensemble, who sing “The Servants Chorus” and add backup to other pieces, sing beautifully and appear and disappear with the facility of a smooth household staff, lending a sense of decorum and order to Higgins apartment.

In all, this production is purely professional and completely entertaining.

John Allore (left), Jim Wicker (center), and Haley Best-Jernigan star as phonetics Professor Henry Higgins and Indian dialect expert Colonel Pickering and their prize pupil, Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle

John Allore (left), Jim Wicker (center), and Haley Best-Jernigan star as phonetics Professor Henry Higgins and Indian dialect expert Colonel Pickering and their prize pupil, Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle

SECOND OPINION: Sept. 13th Sanford, NC Sanford Herald review by Beverly Brookshire: http://www.sanfordherald.com/features/top-notch-cast-design-make-my-fair-lady-a-delight/article_94242ab6-597b-11e5-b9bd-8f9677845d19.html and Aug. 30th preview: http://www.sanfordherald.com/features/temple-opens-new-season-with-my-fair-lady/article_ca5cb386-4e91-11e5-8eac-b36ce6a39f9c.html.

Temple Theatre presents MY FAIR LADY at 2 p.m. Sept. 17, 2 and 8 p.m. Sept. 18, 8 p.m. Sept. 19, 2 p.m. Sept. 20 and 24, 2 and 8 p.m. Sept. 25, 8 p.m. Sept. 26, and 2 p.m. Sept. 27 at 120 Carthage St., Sanford, North Carolina 27330.

TICKETS: $25 ($14 students and $21 Lee County teachers/educators and active-duty military personnel), except $21 for adults on Thursday nights and $21 per ticket for groups of 10 or more.

BOX OFFICE: 919-774-4155, boxoffice@templeshows.com, or https://apps.vendini.com/.

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-774-4155, boxoffice@templeshows.com, or http://www.templeshows.com/ticketinfo/grouppackagesandsales.php.

SHOW: http://www.templeshows.com/showsandevents/currentshow.php.

2015-16 MAIN STAGE SEASON: http://www.templeshows.com/showsandevents/fullseason15-16.php.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.templeshows.com/, https://www.facebook.com/TheTempleTheatre, and https://twitter.com/TempleTheatreNC, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Theatre_%28Sanford,_North_Carolina%29.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://www.templeshows.com/visit/index.php.

NOTE: There will be two $6.50-per-person Student Matinees: at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 17th, and Thursday, Sept. 24th. For more details, e-mail educationdirector@templeshows.com.

OTHER LINKS:

Pygmalion (1913 Vienna and 1914 Broadway play): http://ibdb.com/show.php?id=7310 (Internet Broadway Database), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmalion_%28play%29 (Wikipedia).

George Bernard Shaw (playwright, 1856-1950): http://www.shawsociety.org.uk/ (The Shaw Society, UK), http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=69430 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Bernard_Shaw (Wikipedia).

My Fair Lady (1956 Broadway and 1958 West End musical): http://ibdb.com/show.php?id=6369 (Internet Broadway Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Fair_Lady (Wikipedia).

Study Guide: http://www.bard.org/my-fair-lady-study-guide (Utah Shakespeare Festival).

Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics, 1918-86): http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=3945 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.songwritershalloffame.org/exhibits/C42 (Songwriters Hall of Fame), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Jay_Lerner (Wikipedia).

Frederick Loewe (music, 1901-88): http://www.frederickloewe.org/ (Frederick Loewe Foundation), http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=5688 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.songwritershalloffame.org/exhibits/C43?exhibitId=43 (Songwriters Hall of Fame), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Loewe (Wikipedia).

Peggy Taphorn (director and Temple Theatre artistic director): http://www.templeshows.com/about/templestaff.php (Temple Theatre bio) and https://www.facebook.com/peggy.taphorn.7 (Facebook page).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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