Every so often, a revival comes along that re-invents itself in ways that remind you how truly indispensable great theatre can be. Director Bart Sher plucked "My Fair Lady" out of the old classics bin and transformed the 1956 musical into a timely commentary that also happens to be supremely entertaining.
And where has Lauren Ambrose been all this time? As Eliza, the cockney duckling turned into a "loverly" swan, she is radiant with a voice like an exquisite jewel. So pure and powerful, she is a true star in a performance that will be talked about for years.
But she's just one of many unexpected treats in this glorious production. Harry Hadden-Paton delivers magnificently as a Henry Higgins, whose misogyny is better explained than almost all others I've seen. He's a product of his sexist culture but also a spoiled little boy, and like Ms. Ambrose, the performance shines both musically and dramatically.
That holds for the entire cast. It's such a thrill to see Diana Rigg who once played Eliza in Shaw's "Pygmalion" decades ago. As Mrs. Higgins, she delivers divinely with a steely backbone and a great big pragmatic heart.
And then there's Norbert Leo Butz, always coming through with something special, and he does that in high (or should I say "low"?) style as Eliza's profligate lush of a dad Alfred P. Doolittle. Impish and jaunty, it's a relatively small role that he turns into a showstopper. For theatre fans, his "Get Me To The Church On Time," choreographed so deliciously by Christopher Gattelli, is akin to a religious experience.
I can't say enough about Bart Sher's inspired re-imagining of the show. He put a subtle but indelibly relevant stamp on Lerner and Loewe's masterpiece, and the design team's gorgeous sets, costumes, and lights add the perfect icing to this delectable cake.
Like the current revival of "Hello, Dolly!" Lincoln Center's "My Fair Lady" also sets a new standard. Listening to Lauren Ambrose sing of wanting to dance all night, I could have easily stayed all night watching her and company perform in this splendid production.