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‘My Fair Lady’ comes to Cygnet Theatre

Sean Murray as Henry Higgins and Allison Spratt Pearce as Eliza Doolittle in ‘My Fair Lady’ at Cygnet.
Sean Murray as Henry Higgins and Allison Spratt Pearce as Eliza Doolittle in ‘My Fair Lady’ at Cygnet.
(Daren Scott)

Just how rare is it for a play that’s been around for 60 years to still draw audiences?

Cygnet Artistic Director Sean Murray, who is directing and starring along with Allison Spratt Pearce in “My Fair Lady,” theorizes the answer.

“It’s musicals, mostly,” Murray said. “But also, this one is based on ‘Pygmalion,’ one of the classics of the English stage. The music sounds so fresh, and every time I hear it, it doesn’t seem lost in the 1950s, partly because Frederick Loewe, is a classical composer.”

You know the plot; Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle decides to take speech lessons from Professor Henry Higgins so she can pass herself off as a lady.

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Murray said the class issues are still relevant today and just as timeless.

“I think (playwright) George Bernard Shaw’s feeling, being a good socialist, is that every single human being has a soul and every one of us is equal,” Murray said. “When a society starts putting rules on people judged by their dialect, what country they’re from or how much money they have, the absurdity of classism is revealed. Shaw’s work explores what happens if you remove all of that — like with the young street girl suddenly afforded a different lifestyle.

“I’m very fond of the 1937 film version of ‘Pygmalion,’ with Wendy Hiller and Leslie Howard; it’s really a great movie. Shaw did the screenplay for that movie, so there’s a lot of him in it. The film version was set in 1937, the year it was made, so they were doing a contemporary work.”

In searching for the proper cast, Murray said he was particularly interested in actors who could sing the score.

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“But because the script is a Shaw piece, I also needed performers who had classical training in their background. I knew Allison (Eliza), had classical training at the Old Globe and worked on period plays of this nature, and then I discovered she also played this role before!”

The cast also includes Tom Stephenson, Ron Choularton, Bryan Banville, Katie Whalley Banville, Charles Evans, Jr., Ralph Johnson, Linda Libby and Debra Wanger.

Murray said audiences will also be wowed by the costumes being created and multiple scene changes with lots of new elements to enjoy.