Oakland’s Woodminster Summer Musicals is staging the popular Broadway show “My Fair Lady” from August 4 to the 14 at the Woodminster Amphitheater.
Susan Himes Powers of San Francisco plays the leading role of Eliza Doolittle, and Robert Moorhead – a Piedmont resident and drama teacher at Encinal High School — performs as Henry Higgins. Other key roles in “My Fair Lady” include the part of Colonel Pickering played by Gene Brundage of Granada Hills, and the role of Alfred P. Doolittle performed by Greg Carlson of Alameda (in the center of the above photo).
The show is based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” and tells the story of cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle, who is reinvented through elocution lessons.
“This show, with its delightful characters and wonderful music, is always a pleasure,” said Harriet Schlader, managing director of the production. The music was written by Frederick Loewe and the lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner.
The musical opened on Broadway in 1956 and includes a number of well-known tunes and dance numbers, such as “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “On the Street Where You Live” and “Get Me To the Church On Time.” The production was chosen by a large number of Woodminster audience members last fall, when about 650 theater-goers voted for the shows they’d most like to see performed on the outdoor stage at Joaquin Miller Park.
Woodminster’s “My Fair Lady” is directed by Joel Schlader and choreographed by Peggy Nixon. Kim Vetterli and Brandon Adams provide vocal direction. The cast of 33 includes nine members of Actors’ Equity Association and residents of 20 Bay Area cities.
Moorhead says this is the fourth time he’s playing Higgins at Woodminster. “But each time, I play opposite a different Eliza Doolittle,” he said. “Since Susan and I performed together in ‘The Music Man’ last summer, we know what to expect from each other, and that makes it easy.” He says he’s also enjoying the new musical, dance and stage directing of this year’s production.
“I play a lovable drunk, who’s also a con artist. He feels very self entitled and wants to get some money out of Professor Higgins,” said Carlson. “I especially enjoy the fact that there is a lot of physical comedy with my part.”
The actor, who’s been doing shows at Woodminster since 1997, also says the show has “a great cast and great music.” “George Bernard Shaw wrote the book [‘Pygmalion’] on which the show is based, so the dialogue is perfect,” Carlson explained. “Everyone should have fun with it.”
Other performers concur. “It’s a really fun show, and I’m really enjoying being in the ensemble,” said Andrew Moorhead, Robert Moorhead’s son, who is also a Piedmont resident. “Learning to dance for the number ‘Embassy Waltz’ has been a whole new experience. All our numbers are very enjoyable, since this is such a big, show-stopping production.”
While the film version of “My Fair Lady” is known to many, “The live production gives the audience the spontaneity that they just can’t get on a screen,” said Todd Schlader, a Montclair resident and member of the chorus.
“You don’t know if the entrance will work or how the costume change will go, and this makes it enjoyable,” explained Schlader, who’s been doing shows since the ‘70s with Woodminster Summer Musicals (started by his father, the late Jim Schlader, in 1967). “Plus, you get to interact with those around you in your seating area. That’s the really cool part of it.”
IF YOU GO
What: “My Fair Lady”
Where: Woodminster Amphitheater,, 3300 Joaquin Miller Rd., Oakland
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 4-7, 11-14
Cost: $10 on Aug 4; other shows $24-$42; kids free with paying adults
Info: 510-531-9597, www.woodminster.com