Avery Fisher Hall
NEW YORK -- If only all full-blown theatrical productions could be as wonderful as the New York Philharmonic's "concert performance" of "My Fair Lady," starring Kelsey Grammer as Henry Higgins. This semistaged version, directed by James Brennan and featuring a stellar cast that includes Kelli O'Hara, Charles Kimbrough, Brian Dennehy and Marni Nixon, deserves to be shipped directly to Broadway.
It comes as no surprise that this rendition, featuring the full forces of the Philharmonic Orchestra as conducted by the estimable Rob Fisher, would sound terrific. From its iconic overture to such classic songs as -- well, nearly every song in the score -- the music boasts a richness that Broadway can no longer approach.
But though no one would have really minded if the cast had simply stood up and sang, here there was no stinting on the staging. Featuring beautiful costumes, scenery (admittedly minimal) and choreography, this "Lady" was as carefully produced as any theatrical production despite a run of only four performances.
The role of Higgins is of course a perfect fit for Grammer, whose Frasier Crane character was clearly a close relation in terms of pomposity and plumy diction. The actor, not seen on the New York stage since his ill-fated stab at Macbeth, embodies the part with all the style and humor one would expect. His lack of a singing voice is no hindrance for a part that was designed by composers Lerner and Loewe for nonsinger Rex Harrison, and his delivery of such classic lines as "She's so deliciously low" fully mines every laugh.
O'Hara, who excelled on Broadway last season in "The Pajama Game," is a thoroughly delightful Eliza and brings down the house with her passionate renditions of such songs as "Show Me" and "I Could Have Danced All Night." Dennehy is a hoot as Alfred Doolittle, using his massive bulk to great comic effect with his dainty dance moves in such numbers as "With a Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me to the Church on Time." Kimbrough is perfection as Col. Pickering, and Nixon -- who, of course, provided Audrey Hepburn's singing voice in the film version -- provides great sentimental resonance to the evening with her charming turn as Henry's mother.