Last week, I continued my Friday night theater series, something that started accidentally, but when I discovered that I had booked theater tickets for three Fridays in a row, I started adding more Fridays in to see how many weeks I could go with a Friday theater night (as of right now, February 15 is my last scheduled one). This past Friday was a Christmas gift for my mom, who really wanted to see Laura Benanti in My Fair Lady.
As usual, the night began with dinner near the theater. For this evening, I chose The Smith. Though I had not been to the Lincoln Square location, I had eaten at the restaurant before and knew there was a really good burger and a cocktail calling my name. Mom and I also shared an appetizer of chips with blue cheese fondue and a “S’mores in a Jar” for dessert (was so not planning to have dessert but how do you pass that up?).
Everything at dinner was amazing, and I really like the atmosphere at the restaurant, right down to the photobooth in the basement. Though I did not get a picture taken in this particular booth, I am generally a huge sucker for a photobooth, particularly the old-fashioned kind that gives you the black and white strips!
Nice and full, we headed over the theater. The Vivian Beaumont Theater is located in Lincoln Center, one of my favorite parts of the city. It’s just so pretty, standing and facing the fountain, the New York City Ballet and the Opera House. And seeing the opera house lit up at night makes me really want to go to the opera, despite not being a huge opera fan!
The Vivian Beaumont is set back next to the opera house. A few years ago I saw South Pacific there, and at one point I took my students to see War Horse. Inside, they have a nice little seating area where you can wait for the house to open and take some pictures with the floral My Fair Lady sign.
My Fair Lady is not generally one of my favorite musicals, but I have always been very familiar with it. I’ve seen the movie numerous times, and saw it on Broadway many years ago when I was a teenager. I wanted to see this revival as I had heard good things about it and was told that the costumes were amazing. And overall, those expectations were met, with a few exceptions.
First off, their interpretation of the story was to make Henry Higgins kind of deplorable and not have the characters end up together. I know this was meant to speak to the current culture or climate, but I’m kind of traditional and like it when the show stays the same as it always was, no matter how antiquated it may be. However, they did go out of their way to make Higgins even more egotistical and arrogant than I’ve seen him portrayed before, so the new ending does match up with that directing decision.
Second, the costumes (designed by Catherine Zuber) were amazing, with one very noticeable exception: Eliza’s ballgown. I was so disappointed with it. It was beige. BEIGE. Ballgowns should never be beige. The details on the gown were beautiful though, I wish they had been in a more interesting color so that they could’ve really popped. I tried to find something about Zuber discussing the design choice, because I’m sure there was a reason behind the color, but I couldn’t find anything specific on the ballgown. I’m curious to see what the reasoning might be; the color just seemed to wash out Benanti on stage. And I cannot for the life of my find a picture of it anywhere.
Other than that, however, the costumes were beautiful. My Fair Lady is full of people from all different walks of life, and their clothing choices need to reflect that. There’s Eliza Doolittle and the other poor flower sellers and chimney sweeps, and then the rich aristocrats who run in the same circles are Henry Higgins.
My favorite scene was the Ascot scene, when all the characters are at the horse race. Zuber did the characters in monotone grays and light purples. When Eliza arrives, she is in darker colors, making her status as an outsider move obvious.
In addition to the costumes, the set was amazing, and everything worked together really well to create a really cohesive experience. Bartlett Sher (the director) definitely knows how to put on a show. The main downside to the whole thing was that the person sitting in the row next to me was SINGING ALONG. And not even really singing. Have you ever had that experience when someone is singing but doesn’t really know all the words? THAT kind of singing. When I pay upwards of $150 for theater tickets, I don’t really want to hear a chopped up version of the songs sung by an audience member.
Despite the audience member singing, it was still a fun night!