By Richard Schultz, September 2016 Issue Web Exclusive.
David Hock, executive producer of the Scottsdale Musical Theater Company, is committed to bringing Broadway's favorites back to life. For his latest endeavor, Hock is directing My Fair Lady. the musical, complete with a 25-piece orchestra and sets from a touring company, in hopes of sparking nostalgic interest in a simpler time and a message about change and the importance of acceptance.
Terry Gadaire as Henry Higgins. Photo courtesy of Scottsdale Musical Theater Company.
“The power of change is certainly a big message. The incredible transformation Eliza goes thru speaks volumes for what any individual is capable of given the right environment.”
This Lerner and Loewe 1957 Tony Award-winner for Best Musical is based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play Pygmalion and is the basis for the 1964 Academy Award-winning film starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.
The story follows Eliza Doolittle, a rough Cockney girl (played by Karylin Veres) who meets Colonel Pickering (played by Bill Diekmann) and Henry Higgins (played by Terry Gadaire) 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 Eliza and Higgins at first, the lessons soon begin to work wonders, and produce results that neither predict.
Hock believes that this musical is the right one for today’s tumultuous times.
“The music and story are so famous," he said. "Given our current social climate, audiences truly appreciate the nostalgic feel of the story. The idea that one can better one's self if you put your mind to it resonates with audiences, especially younger people. The fact that Eliza sticks to her guns and sees it through to the end and just doesn't quit is very powerful.”
Intrigued by the challenge of conveying a love that today’s audience can relate to, without it being blatantly shown to them, Gadaire points out that there is no sexual chemistry displayed and no physical activity that clearly indicates Henry and Eliza love each other.
Left to right: Bill Diekmann, Karylin Veres and Terry Gadaire in My Fair Lady. Photo courtesy of Scottsdale Musical Theater Company.
Gadaire believes that Higgins’ song, "I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face," brings to light all the emotions and changes that Eliza has created within Henry.
“Hopefully, the audience feels his love and confusion and frustration that Eliza has brought into his life," he said. "He loves her and is not used to not being in control.”
In taking on the iconic role of Higgins, Gadaire immersed himself in dialect work, character study and research to better understand the time period and its etiquette. In contrast to the iconic portrayal of Higgins by Rex Harrison, Gadaire brings a greater musicality to his character.
“My Henry sings more than speaks his songs," he noted. " Although the songs are very wordy and eloquent, musical director Curtis Moeller and I have tried to find the times to make his songs more lyrical and less recited. I love the blend of being able to play with both elements in a lot of his songs.”
In making choices about his Higgins, Gadaire looked to his father for inspiration.
“I grew up in a very structured household with a father who had a great deal of love, but a great deal of integrity and pride in what he did and how it influenced others," he said. "Higgins reminds me a lot of my father and both his tutorial side and his emotional side, as well as the difficulty in conveying or relating to others’ emotions. It wasn’t that he didn’t feel them. It was just conveyed in a way that made sense to him, but not necessarily seen or felt by others.”
One of Gadaire’s goals is to bring more likeability to Higgins and show his humor and charm.
“It is way too easy to let him come off as gruff and unfeeling. David and I agree that it is vital to avoid having the audience be put off by him or be indifferent," he said. "They have to be invested in him as a human being in order for them to be invested in the outcome and Eliza’s choice to come back ... I hope to find the chemistry with Eliza so that the audience can feel, see and hear that she has changed his life and affected him greatly and vice versa. It makes the story so much more believable.”
My Fair Lady
Aug. 18-21, 2016
Scottsdale Musical Theater Company
Tempe Center for the Arts
700 W Rio Salado Pkwy, Tempe
Tickets: $38-$42; 602-909-4215