Putting on your own professional production of one of the most popular and iconic musicals of all time is no easy feat.
That’s the monumental task facing director Sara-Jeanne Hosie as Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre prepares to stage My Fair Lady.
“Every director and every group of actors wants to tell the story their own way, and the challenge to that is to tell it the truest way we can,” says Hosie. “I definitely think we’ve done a fresh, new look on this show; a fresh new take on this story.”
The story, to those unfamiliar with it, is based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, about the unrefined Cockney Eliza Doolittle and the well-to-do Henry Higgins, who aims to transform her into a lady.
“I feel like I’m bringing my own brand to the role, and my level of skill as a singer, dancer and actor,” says Amanda Lisman, who plays Eliza, a role made famous by Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn. “It’s just about having fun with it, and finding the truth of the character to me.”
Both Hosie and Lisman say My Fair Lady is one of the most well-rounded musicals of all time, complete with great music and a top-notch story.
“What I love about Shaw’s writing is all of his women that he writes are strong and witty and very intelligent, and so that is a joy to play,” Lisman says. “Eliza’s is a great journey to take. What Shaw gives you, which perhaps other musicals don’t have, is a great play at the centre of the music.”
Hosie was originally slated to be choreographer on the show, with Blue Bridge artistic director Brian Richmond taking charge as director.
“As we did the audition process and saw lots of really great people, it came to our attention that we had our Henry Higgins behind the desk directing. We realized he should play the part,” Hosie says.
With Lisman and Richmond, along with Kholby Wardell as Freddie, in the lead roles, Hosie says the 17-person cast has been a delight to direct.
“It’s been wonderful to find this story, and come in and collaborate with the cast for their ideas and thoughts. I think we’ve found a lovely balance,” the director says.
Lisman, whose recent performances have been on the more dramatic side, says she’s enjoying playing Eliza and returning to her roots in comedy.
“It’s such a joy going to rehearsals every day, singing, dancing and engaging on another level than just scene work,” she says. “I think one of the things I enjoy most is the humour of the show. It’s fantastic to explore that aspect of it.”
“Amanda comes from such a comedic place in her life. She’s a very strong comedian,” adds Hosie. “What she’s infusing into Eliza, the comedy she’s bringing into Eliza is wonderful and is so fresh. She’s definitely going the full gamut and working very hard to be convincing as the different (incarnations of) Eliza.”
Lisman, a Victoria native who’s ventured to Toronto for some of her most recent roles, says it’s a treat working for Blue Bridge in her hometown.
“I’m so happy that they’ve created a demand for classical theatre in Victoria. I’ve had to go elsewhere to work and get the challenges as a professional actor, so to have them fill the void of classical musical theatre in my hometown is fantastic for me,” she says.
My Fair Lady runs until August 18 at the McPherson Playhouse. Tickets ($25-$60) are available at the McPherson box office, at rmts.bc.ca or by calling 250-386-6121.