With more than 70 years of providing award-winning music and theatre to Mississauga and surrounding areas, Clarkson Music Theatre (CMT) is one of the largest and most widely respected community theatre groups in the province. This November, CMT will whisk its audience away to the to the Edwardian streets of London with Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady as part of Music Theatre Mississauga’s Encore Series.
Here, Eliza Doolittle, a young Cockney flower seller yearns to “be a lady,” despite feeling trapped in the lower rungs of society. Enter Professor Henry Higgins, the arrogant world-renowned master of the English language who bets he can “make a duchess of this draggle-tailed gutter snipe.” An unlikely friendship blossoms and a fairy tale story unfolds.
Christine McMahon, one of the show’s three producers (along with Rita Ferguson and Mike Giguere), shares some of the criteria CMT uses when selecting a production to take to the stage.
“Our shows should be productions that our audience wants to see,” she said, noting the group’s production of White Christmas was a sell out last year. “Our audience was familiar with the story and enjoyed the music. That’s what a good show should do. In many ways, that’s what My Fair Lady does. A great classic show, great music, great story, great production values – it checks off all the boxes for our audience.”
Alison O’Neill, who plays Eliza, was one of 20 applicants for the role. Producing a show that draws great talent is another key element for CMT when selecting a production.
Michael MacLennan, director and choreographer, expressed his intent with the production is to keep the story focused on Eliza.
“She is the one who is taking control of her own destiny and seizing the opportunity to change her social status,” he said. “This is not the story of a man molding a woman into his idealized image.”
Though the story is set in the early 1900s, MacLennan emphasizes the relevance that My Fair Lady holds for today’s audience.
“I feel older productions have more to teach us than we realize,” he said.
The production, presented with special arrangement by Music Theatre International, will treat the audience to one of musical theatre’s most beloved scores, featuring The Rain in Spain, I Could Have Danced All Night, Loverly, and Get Me to the Church on Time. CMT’s 15-piece orchestra, under the musical direction of Jenny Peace, will lead the cast of 30.
McMahon, also a member of the ensemble cast, relishes the magic of being able to travel back in time with the production.
“In what other show does one get to dress up in rags as a Cockney, jump to the elegance of the Ascot, which will be brilliantly outfitted by our costume lady Alex Amini – oh the hats, and then get to attend the Embassy Ball?” she said.
With the help of award-winning set designer Bruce Brown, MacLennan leads the audience on an adventure through 1912 London by using “surrealistic huge bird cages” to capture the various locations featured in the story.
Suitable for all audiences, My Fair Lady takes the stage at Meadowvale Theatre, 6315 Montevideo Road, Mississauga, Nov.17 to 25, at various showtimes. Tickets $28 to $30. Visit encoretix.org for information. Visit clarksonmusictheatre.com for information about CMT.
Image: Cast members of Clarkson Music Theatre’s upcoming My Fair Lady production rehearse the Ascot scene. From left: Susan Wray (Mrs. Higgins), Clive Lacey (Henry Higgins), Alison O’Neill (Eliza Doolittle), Nick Forrow (Colonel Pickering), and Tommy Amoroso (Freddy Eynsford-Hill).