My Fair Lady
July 7-17, Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre, (860) 486-4226, crt.uconn.edu

The CT Repertory Theater on the UConn campus in Storrs is in the middle of a summer season of musical theater, with My Fair Lady opening on July 7. The Advocate spoke by phone with Broadway stars Terrence Mann and Charlotte d'Amboise, both members of the creative team for My Fair Lady, who are a married couple. Terry will play Professor Higgins and Charlotte will choreograph the show. Here are excerpts from that conversation.

Advocate: Have you ever played Henry Higgins before?

Terry Mann: It was my very first musical — I played Henry Higgins as a senior in high school! I've directed it since, but never done the part again. I'm really looking forward to it.

You're an accomplished singer. You were the original Rum Tum Tugger in Cats and earned Tony nominations for Inspector Javert in Les Miserables and Beauty and the Beast as the Beast. Will you sing the songs or stay with sprechstimme, the rhythmic speaking style that is so identified with the part because of Rex Harrison's performance on stage and in the film?

Rex Harrison's performance was a classic; there's nothing quite like it. I'm going to stick pretty close to his approach. Maybe I'll sing bits of it, but I expect mostly to do my version of him. If you don't, it changes the character. And it reduces the contrast with the Freddy Eysnford Hill character, the juvenile romantic lead, who has the big ballad.

What's the schedule?

We'll have two weeks to rehearse and then two weeks to run. That pretty much means I'll need to arrive knowing all my lines. I don't usually do it that way since I prefer to absorb the blocking and business together with the lines but there won't be time for that here. I've just finished two years on Broadway in The Addams Family with Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, and he came in to rehearsals with everything off book for that project. It's how he always works. Different actors do it differently.

What's a favorite memory from your time on Broadway?

I got a chance to play Frank-n-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. That's the most fun I've had on Broadway legally or illegally. It was really great. When I came to Broadway I had no expectations: I was hoping at most to play the third spear carrier from the left in a production of Coriolanus, you know? So I've been very lucky. Surely the most transformative role I've ever played is Javert in Les Miserables. I did that role for a year.

You're married to Charlotte d'Amboise, who has just finished a run as Roxie in Chicago — a role she's played in at least 10 productions. She's choreographing My Fair Lady, right?

Yes. She's right here.

Charlotte d'Amboise: Yes! It'll be fun. I'm going to enjoy pushing my husband around on stage. Performing is one thing. It has its own discipline and craziness. But it's great to be behind the scenes, too. I love to mix it up: directing, performing, teaching, choreographing. I grew up in the business. I've been performing professionally since I was 10 and got my Equity card at 19, working in Cats.

So, did you meet Terry then?

CA: Yes, I met him in full cat makeup and fell in love with him anyway! It was so absurd. I mean, we had whiskers and tails! It was pretty much love at first sight. And now we have two daughters, ages 7 and 8, and they travel with us as much as possible.

When you were young, did you travel with your dad, Jacques d'Amboise, the famous dancer and dance educator?

CA: I grew up in the ballet world, because of dad. It's very different from the musical theater world. Ballet dancers are very focused and very serious from a very young age: they have to be. They were never that warm or playful with me when I was on tour with them. But the musical theater people are great with the girls: really fun and interactive. So they love being along with us when we travel.

Are they into performing?

CA: Both of them study ballet at ABT in New York. They were both in Nutcracker this year at Lincoln Center. So there was a time there in November and December when all four of us were doing eight shows a week: Terry in Addams Family, me in Chicago, and the girls in Nutcracker. Sometimes I'd tell my daughter, "sorry, I can't do your hair today; I've got two shows," and she'd say, "I've got two shows, too! High five, mom!" They're wonderful. We're looking forward to our month in Connecticut together.

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