Based on George Bernard Shaw's classic play Pygmalion, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's musical My Fair Lady follows the transformation of Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle into an aristocratic lady through lessons in manners, language and dress. After directing the production at the 2011 Shaw Festival, Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith reunites with members of her original design team, along with noted Canadian actor Benedict Campbell who reprises his role as Henry Higgins, to bring a completely fresh interpretation to audiences in D.C. As previously announced, Manna Nichols makes her Arena debut as Eliza Doolittle, and Nicholas Rodriguez returns as Freddy Eynsford-Hill, leading a cast that features many D.C.-area actors. My Fair Lady became the best-selling production in the Shaw Festival's 50-year history and runs at Arena Stage November 2, 2012-January 6, 2013 in the Fichandler Stage.
"Great musicals, like great plays, demand to be reinterpreted for each generation," says Smith. "My Fair Lady is a potent story about class, and in a world increasingly blown apart by the dynamics of the very rich and the very poor, this musical hits the sweet spot of our current awareness of class. I'm eager to tackle this mountain of a musical again with my designers because the ideas are so universal, the story lands in a completely contemporary way and we know that audiences in D.C. will be excited to experience it with their families."
Choreographer Daniel Pelzig, Music Director Paul Sportelli, Costume Designer Judith Bowden and Lighting Designer Jock Munro will rejoin Smith to create an original look for My Fair Lady at Arena Stage, along with Set Designer Donald Eastman and Sound Designer Carl Casella. The lower, middle and upper classes clash and interact onstage, and each class is further expressed through couture-level costumes designed by Bowden. Influenced by the steampunk movement that blends steam-engine technology with Victorian-era fashion, Bowden creates layered looks for the lower class that refer to the mechanism of today mixed with a classic Victorian style, while the upper class is clothed in Alexander McQueen-inspired gowns.
This range of designs continues through the choreography of Pelzig, who makes his Arena Stage debut. Sportelli (A Light in the Piazza) rejoins Smith to lead the 11-piece orchestra, which will emphasize the city street sounds from beneath the stage. Eastman (M. Butterfly) creates the world of 1912 London in the round, with floral patterns influenced by William Morris designs covering the floor and enormous crystal chandeliers illuminating the Fichandler Stage.
In conjunction with My Fair Lady, Arena Stage is hosting a number of special events related to the production. The Opening Night Celebration will be held Thursday, November 15 and includes a VIP reception, cocktails and buffet dinner, along with that evening's performance. Arena Stage invites members of the armed forces and their families to the second annual Military Thanksgiving Friday, November 23, 2012, with a meal and performance of My Fair Lady. The following week, Arena Stage will host Isn't She Loverly: Design in Bloom, a costume-inspired floral arrangement contest Friday, November 30, where local florists will create and display their floral interpretations of 25 iconic leading lady costumes from Arena Stage's past productions. On Sunday, December 16, families are invited to the Parent Child Tea, complete with a full British tea following the 2:00 p.m. performance that day.