The costumes alone are a challenge—think of all those Edwardian hats for the Ascot horse race, and evening gowns for Eliza Doolittle’s debut—and then there are the voices required to effectively sing the show, from Henry Higgins’s “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” to Eliza’s “I Could Have Danced All Night” and her father’s “Get Me to the Church on Time” to Freddy’s “On the Street Where You Live.”
“It’s a beast of a show,” acknowledges Derek Barnes, director of San Benito Stage Company’s summer musical at the Granada Theatre in Hollister. “The scope of it, the magnitude, for some community theaters, is probably challenging.”
The 1956 Tony Award-winning musical, with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, tells the story of a phonetics professor who takes on the project of passing off a Cockney flower girl as a lady.
The show opens July 13 and stars Robert Christopher as Henry Higgins, Isabelle Menez as Eliza, Johnny Moreno as Freddy and Ron Firstbrook as Alfred P. Doolittle.
Christopher has extensive community theater experience in the South County, including George Banks in “Mary Poppins” a couple of years ago.
“This was one of his bucket list roles,” said Barnes. “He’s really kind of immersed himself into the character, trying to portray him as accurately as possible.”
Menez, a Monte Vista Christian School graduate with musical and voice training, “sounds wonderful in all of the songs,” said Barnes. “She’s really taken on that role with great ease. She can switch from the Cockney to the very prim and proper Eliza very quickly. Her singing voice is just what we needed for that role.”
Barnes recently saw an exhibit of the Ascot costumes on display at the Warner Bros. studio.
“I was just marveling at how impressive they looked,” he said. He’s counting on costume designers Lois Kincaid and Toni Smith to tap into the theater company’s extensive collection of costumes to fill the stage, not to mention building some show-stopping millinery.
“We wanted to figure out a way to hook the audience into a storyline that has a variety of different story arcs” and emotions, said Barnes, from “happiness to sadness to anger.”
He recognizes the show has “some chauvinistic tones to it; a 1913 play about an egotistical male who thinks he can turn a woman into a proper lady.”
The show will San Benito’s last major production at the Granada Theatre, where its long-term lease is up as the owner takes on some remodeling.
“We’re in a decent situation here,” Barnes said. “We’ve been very comfortable at the Granada. Now we’re going to be out of our comfort zone.”
Next season’s productions will be at several community sites. “We’re going to be a mobile theater,” said Barnes. “That’s how San Benito Stage Company originally operated.”
San Benito Stage Company presents ‘My Fair Lady,’ July 13-28 at the Granada Theatre, 336 Fifth St, Hollister. Tickets $12-$16. sanbenitostage.org.