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The show must go on: ‘My Fair Lady’ opens at Segerstrom — with precautions in place

Shavey Brown, Mark Aldrich, Shereen Ahmed, William Michals and Colin Anderson in "My Fair Lady."
Shavey Brown, Mark Aldrich, Shereen Ahmed, center, William Michals and Colin Anderson in the Lincoln Center Theater production of Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady.” The show is coming to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
(Courtesy of Joan Marcus)

As theatergoers filed into the Segerstrom Center for the Arts for the opening night of “My Fair Lady” on Tuesday evening, bags were checked and tickets were scanned. But before all that, vaccination cards were requested.

It was all part of the center’s new procedures to keep audience and cast members safe as coronavirus cases rise in Orange County. All ticket holders for Tuesday’s performance were required to wear masks and provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 48 hours of the performance. Negative Antigen tests taken within six hours of performance were also accepted.

“Our health and safety protocols have been informed by infectious diseases experts at the University of California - Irvine to ensure adherence to the principles for cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention,” a statement on the SCFTA website reads.

This month, the center has postponed some events out of concern for the coronavirus surge. A program of classical music concerts scheduled for this month at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom concert hall were pushed back to June. A full slate of outdoor performances is also planned for the year, some which have already begun.

But the show must go on.

Lincoln Center Theater’s production of Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady” took to the stage before a fully masked audience.

This revival, directed by Bartlett Sher, and starring Shereen Ahmed as Eliza Doolittle and Laird Mackintosh as Henry Higgins, allows audiences to revisit one of theater’s most beloved musicals. “My Fair Lady” features classic songs like “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” and “I Could Have Danced All Night.”

“My Fair Lady” debuted on Broadway in 1956, setting a new record for the longest-running major theater production at the time. In 1964, it was famously brought to the big screen by Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, (although soprano Marni Nixon was brought in to dub Hepburn’s singing voice).

New York’s Lincoln Center Theater’s revival of the show has been met with similar esteem and was nominated for several Tony Awards in 2018. Its North American tour comes to SCFTA with nightly performances through Jan. 23.

Shereen Ahmed as Eliza Doolittle in the Lincoln Center Theater production of Lerner and Loewe's "My Fair Lady."
Shereen Ahmed as Eliza Doolittle in the Lincoln Center Theater production of Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady.” The show is coming to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
(Courtesy of Joan Marcus)

Ahmed, whose regional credits include Maria in the “Sound of Music,” Anna in “The King and I” and Fiona in “Shrek the Musical,” is captivating as Eliza Doolittle, with a talent for physical comedy and an enchanting voice. Mackintosh, who has taken such iconic roles as Boo Radley in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the Phantom and Monsieur Andre in “The Phantom of the Opera,” plays to the role of the oblivious Professor Henry Higgins with charismatic charm.

The familiarity of a well-known musical, viewed at a time when nothing is predictable, can feel like a visit with an old friend and safety measures make it possible for the curtain to rise. More than one audience member was observed humming “I Could Have Danced All Night” as they exited the theater. Meanwhile, a staff member sanitized the stair rail.

Tickets and showtimes can be found at scfta.org.

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