Lerner and Loewe's most acclaimed musical, "My Fair Lady," is based on the tale of the Greek sculptor, Pygmalion, who carved a statue of a woman so perfectly, so life-like, that he fell in love with it.
The second-century story by Ovid became a play by George Bernard Shaw in 1914, which was adapted into a musical comedy in 1956.
It was not thought to be a good candidate for the genre, because Shaw develops no real love story between the leads, rather utilizing the "Pygmalion Effect" the phenomenon wherein the greater the expectations, the greater the achievements, particularly of students.
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - From left, David Iversen as Col. Pickering, Katie Langemo as Eliza Doolittle and Alphonse Koenigsman as Prof. Henry Higgins rehearse a scene from the Minot State University Summer Theatre's production of 'My Fair Lady.'
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - Katie Langemo as Eliza Doolittle discovers coins in her flower basket in rehearsing a scene from the Minot State University Summer Theatre's production of 'My Fair Lady.'
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - Alphonse Koenigsman as Prof. Henry Higgins, right, shares a glass with David Iversen as Col. Pickering in rehearsal for the Minot State University Summer Theatre production of “My Fair Lady.”
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - Front, from left: Brett Olson, C.J. Leigh and Chris Stroschein lead 'With a Little Bit of Luck' in rehearsal for the Minot State University Summer Theatre production of “My Fair Lady.”
The Cockney flower seller Eliza Doolittle, played by Katie Langemo, is the unlikely student of a professor of English grammar, Henry Higgins, played by Alphonse Koenigsman.
While Higgins shapes Eliza's speech, the real sculptor is Col. Pickering, played by David Iversen, who treats Eliza as a lady, so she comes to see herself as one.
" 'My Fair Lady' is one that audiences always seem to request," said director Conrad Davidson. "It must be about 20 years since we've done it. It was on Kevin (Neuharth)'s short list, and since I started staging it, I've gained an appreciation for it. There are good characters and good relationships in it."
'My Fair Lady'
"My Fair Lady" runs today through Monday. Each show begins at 8:30 p.m.
Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and students and $5 for children 12 and under. Deck seating is $10. Admission for MSU faculty, students and staff are $3 with current I.D.
The only entrance to the amphitheater is from the east, using 11th Avenue off Broadway. For reservations or for more information, call 858-3228.
Davidson has set it in the classic style in the early 1900s, with a large cast and all the familiar songs, such as "The Rain in Spain" and "Wouldn't it be Loverly?"
Davidson compared Higgins' insistence that "an Englishman's way of speaking absolutely classifies him," with the modern feeling pervasive today that certain accents are preferable, and people with poor grammar are somehow inferior. It's the story of the underdog, rising up against society. In this case, it's Eliza growing out of her class by her own initiative, realizing she has to improve her manner of speaking to get a job in a flower shop instead of staying on the street.
One of the characters taking advantage of the situation for his own benefit is her father, Alfred Doolittle, played by a relative newcomer to Minot theaters, C.J. Leigh.
"I did a lot of theater in college, but then joined the Air Force and didn't have a lot of time for it," Leigh said. "I married a Minot girl and when I got out of the Air Force just stayed here.
"I was downtown and parked near the Carnegie when the Mouse River Players were having auditions, and they got me into 'Get Smart.' As the lead," he said. "Since I love doing musicals, they urged me to try out for the summer theater, and here I am."
As with every summer season, Davidson has a cast of widely varying experience.
"Some have done a little, some a lot," he said.
One who has done a lot is Minot High School-Magic City Campus drama instructor Koenigsman, who finds the most challenging aspect of playing Higgins is the precision of the speeches.
"All the words are important," Koenigsman said. "In the songs a lot of information is given, so I have to be very careful with pronouncing it clearly.
"The part has a lot of movement, and solo songs, duets and trios," he said. "It's the role of a lifetime."
One of the reasons he decided to do summer theater was that a number of his students are also participating, and they complained to him that they hadn't ever seen him perform.
"I guess it's been since I was in the barbershop quartet in 'Music Man' back in 2003," he mused. "In 1992 and 2002 I played Fagin in 'Oliver.' It's been a while."
The MSU Summer Theatre's 46th season officially concludes with the non-musical comedy "Don't Dress for Dinner," rescheduled for Aug. 25-27, that performance to take place in the Aleshire Theater.