‘My Fair Lady’ is more than meets the eye
Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) will take on the Broadway production “My Fair Lady” in its spring musical at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, Friday, Feb. 3, and Saturday, Feb. 4, with a matinee at 1 p.m. Feb. 4, at the SPASH auditorium.
Tickets are $10 at the door, or $12 for reserve seat tickets. Tickets are available at SPASH between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. weekdays, and also at Jim Laabs and Mitchell Piano in Stevens Point. To purchase reserve tickets, send an email to [email protected].
“My Fair Lady” is a story about Eliza Doolittle, a rough Cockney girl who meets Colonel Pickering and Henry Higgins in Covent Garden where she’s selling flowers. When Higgins remarks that he could help Eliza speak properly and raise her status in the community, Pickering challenges him to do so, and Eliza takes him up on the offer.
Though difficult and frustrating for both Doolittle and Higgins at first, the lessons soon begin to work and produce results that neither predict.
“I was so excited about my senior musical and then I heard it was ‘My Fair Lady,’” said Katrina Stelk, who plays the lead, Eliza Doolittle. “It’s my great-grandparents’ favorite musical of all time and I had never heard of it … but I really like it.
“I hope people can see the transformation that takes place, and I hope they will enjoy it as much as I do,” she said.
The transformation Stelk speaks of involves the characters, but just as important is what is happening behind the people.
A backstage/tech crew which can include as many as 20, spend dozens of hours creating the scene that allows the characters of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins to come to life and be believable.
“Things that people may not see really are what make it,” said stage manager Verity Williams, a senior who has participated in backstage crew for three years at SPASH. “It’s really a fun process.
“As we get closer to tech week, we’re trying to get all of this done,” she said. “It’s going to be cram time for everyone … but then we’ll be able to get to know the cast and characters better.”
Williams paused to help another crew member who was half way up a ladder with a question about painting PVC piping. On the far end of the stage, three others worked on lighting – running it up, hesitating as something caught, then lowering it down, adjusting one light, then repeating the process multiple times.
At the front of the stage, two other crew members painted books as part of the back drop scenery, and in the back of the auditorium, still others worked on sound and lighting.
The crew meets for a couple of months before opening night, discussing ideas, budget and then building teams for assignments. There is crossover in duties as the students work together with a common goal: Give the audience a great scene, minimal time in scene changes, and provide a background and location that fits with the characters and the storyline.
“There’s always things to worry about, but it all comes together, and it makes for good stories,” Williams said.
The production – though perhaps not as widely known with the SPASH students’ generation – was one of the best of its day, and students are aware of that fact as well.
The original 1956 Broadway musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe was a 1957 Tony Award-winner for Best Musical. The musical is based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play “Pygmalion” and also is the basis for the 1964 Academy Award-winning film starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.
The piece also won Tony Awards for Best Leading Actor in a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Conductor and Musical Director, and Best Scenic and Best Costume Design. It also was nominated for Best Actress, Best Featured Actor and Best Choreography.
With credits like that, it could be a daunting undertaking, but SPASH students are taking it in stride.
“I’m definitely concerned with people comparing me to Audrey Hepburn, but I learned my accent from her and brought out the humor from her,” Stelk said. “I feel really good about it. We’ve worked really hard.”
A well-known Broadway cast isn’t the only challenge, the students say. In fact, there are scores of them: the backstage transitions, the Cockney accent, the differences between “Pygmalion” and the musical and how this production relates – or doesn’t – to modern day relationships.
Senior Jordan Garski, who plays Higgins, and senior Thomas Felt, who plays Freddy Eynsford-Hill, have opposing views on the ending and the character and social acceptance of the time period.
“It’s fun, it’s a great experience,” Felt said, “but one thing I don’t like is the ending, (in Pygmalion) was so much better. I feel like it’s (the musical) like an old, not modern mindset” because of Higgins’ attitude toward and treatment of Doolittle.
But Garski counters it reflects the time.
“This was written at a time when it was supposed to be a statement, show where women know more than people think,” he said. “I don’t have as much trouble with the ending.”
Garski’s challenges come from adapting to the character, he said.
“I’m (Higgins) an expert in phonetics and speech so I have to be perfect in every way, I’m also kind of a stooge and I know more than everyone, I’m an arrogant character,” he said. “I throw so many fits about things, I’m so OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) in the show so there’s a lot of lines and monologue … I know when I talk everyone listens because I’m so posh.
“That’s really not in my nature,” he said.
But it also makes for some great chemistry and sets the stage for a fun time for audiences, students said.
Dena Mercer is director. Characters and their cast members include Eliza Doolittle, Katrina Stelk; Colonel Pickering, Noah Tolbert; Henry Higgins, Jordan Garski; Freddy Eynsford-Hill, Tom Felt; Alfred P. Doolittle, Nick Langenhahn; Harry, Riley Andrews; Jamie, Zach Stemer; Mrs. Pierce, Theresa Yonash; Mrs. Eynsford-Hill, Katie Hoerter; Mrs. Higgins, Emily Check; Bartender (George), Tanner Reed; Mrs. Hopkins, Allison Kleman;
Professor Zoltan Karpathy, Ian Mercer; A Covent Garden Bystander, Nadalie Khang; Lord Boxington, Jesse Staniewski; Lady Boxington, Chelsey Wiza; Selsey Bystander, Sophie Disher; Hoxton Bystander, Emma Kowalski; Busker 1, Faith LeMay; Busker 2, Jenna Boeck; Queen of Transylvania, Allison Wisinski; Ambassador , Tanner Reed; Ambassador’s Wife, Alivia Nosrati; Dr. Themistocles Stephanos, Zach Stremer;
Higgins’ Household staff, Shea Casey, Marah Helm, Ana Metzler, Rachel Sunu and Andrea Zalac,.
Ensemble characters include the Covent Garden Folks, Ascot Race Patrons and the Embassy Ball Guests. All cast members in the ensemble will play multiple roles in these characters. Ensemble cast members include:
Riley Andrews, Ian Mercer, Jenna Boeck, Ana Metzler, Shea Casey, Madison Netzinger, Sophie Disher, Alivia Nosrati, Maddy Eron, Tanner Reed, Allison Faulks, Jesse Staniewski, Meghan Fletcher, Zach Stremer, Marah Helm, Rachel Sunu, Katie Hoerter, Isabella Tompkins, Kaia Houtman, Mikayla Walsh, Nadalie Khang, Allison Wisinski, Allison Kleman, Chelsey Wiza, Emma Kowalski, Bailey Wunrow, Faith LeMay and Andrea Zalac.
Crew members along with Williams include seniors Christina Greenlee, Cat Frost and Kaiden Taylor, junior Alec Garski, and sophomores Nina Heckmate, Jasmine Perry and Nick Kratzke. For this production, 2016 SPASH graduate Eli Glennon returned to assist crew also.