The touring company of "My Fair Lady" did a loverly job Friday night at Little Rock's Robinson Center Performance Hall.
The production, a road-show adaptation of Bartlett Sher's acclaimed Lincoln Center Theater production (here under the auspices of Celebrity Attractions), does justice both to the creators of the musical (music by Frederick Loewe, book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner) but also to the playwright on whose work they based it (George Bernard Shaw and his play "Pygmalion").
Cockney Covent Garden flower seller Eliza Doolittle (Madeline Powell) attracts the attention of linguist, martinet and confirmed bachelor Henry Higgins (Jonathan Grunert), who on a bet with a colleague (John Adkisson as Col. Hugh Pickering) agrees to mold her speech and demeanor so profoundly that he'll be able to pass her off as a duchess at an embassy ball.
Powell has an amazing soprano singing voice and brings wonderful touches of humor to Eliza; she also brings, alas, a thicker-than-necessary top-of-show cockney accent that makes her tough to decipher, even for those who know her lines. Grunert sings in a lovely baritone in those numbers in which he's allowed to shine -- "A Hymn to Him" and "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" in particular -- though of course he is slightly cursed by the non-singing shadow of Rex Harrison, who originated the role.
Adkisson brings an extra touch of comedy to Pickering. Great support also comes from Michael Hegarty as Eliza's father, canny dustman Alfred P. Doolittle; Nathan Haltiwanger, with an enormous tenor voice as Freddy, Eliza's would-be swain; Becky Saunders as Higgins' arch mother; Daniel James Canaday as oily imposter-chaser Zoltan Karpathy; and Madeline Brennan as Mrs. Pearce, Higgins' (in this production, Scottish) housekeeper.
The excellent 10-piece pit band started the overture right at curtain time and the second-act "Embassy Waltz" entr'acte right at the 15-minute mark of intermission -- important when you consider the show runs close to three hours.
"My Fair Lady" is back onstage at 2 and 8 p.m. today and 1 p.m. Sunday at Robinson, 426 W. Markham St. at Broadway. Find ticket information by calling (501) 244-8800 or online at CelebrityAttractions.com or Ticketmaster.com.