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By Suzanne Charlé | August 1, 2016 | Culture
Bay Street Theater concludes its 25th-anniversary season with an intimate production of My Fair Lady.
My Fair Lady stars Paul Alexander Nolan, Kelli Barrett, and Howard McGillin.
How best for Bay Street Theater to celebrate its 25th anniversary? With a revival of My Fair Lady, which is celebrating its 60th, of course. “This perfect musical felt like the perfect way to close our season,” says Bay Street’s artistic director, Scott Schwartz, who chose Michael Arden, a Tony Award nominee for directing the recent Broadway revival of Spring Awakening, to helm it.
“I wanted a director who would… create a production that capitalizes on the intimacy of Bay Street’s theater and makes the show feel new for a new generation,” says Schwartz. According to Arden, they decided to “scale way back from the original My Fair Lady,” with its sumptuous costumes, elaborate sets, and large cast.
Tony Award nominee Michael Arden is directing Bay Street Theater’s production of My Fair Lady.
Bay Street’s intimate staging is more akin to that of the play on which the musical is based, George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Two pianos replace a full orchestra. “It really frees the actors,” says Arden. And for the 299-seat house, he has decided to “try something wild: We won’t use body mics.” The focus will be on the actors’ unamplified voices and the marvelous Lerner and Loewe songs: “I want the audience to lean in.”
But perhaps the biggest change is in the casting of Professor Higgins. In the show’s Broadway debut, Rex Harrison, who was closing in on 50, was very much the patrician father figure to 20-year-old Julie Andrews’s Eliza Doolittle. Instead, Arden has cast Paul Alexander Nolan (Once) as Higgins opposite Kelli Barrett as Eliza. (The duo previously costarred on Broadway in Doctor Zhivago.)
“They’re much closer in age, more sexual equals,” says Arden. “It creates an exciting dynamic.” And don’t expect any imitation of Harrison’s unique speak-sing style. “Nolan will be singing,” the director assures us. “The audience will actually hear the score—some for the first time!” My Fair Lady runs Aug. 2–28 at Bay Street Theater, corner of Bay and Main Streets, Sag Harbor, 725-9500
photography Courtesy of MiChael arden (arden); By Barry gordin (Cast)