‘Pygmalion’ brings a fair lady to Theatre of Western Springs

- By Myrna Petlicki Myrna Petlicki is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.

Henry Higgins, a linguistic­s professor, bets Colonel Pickering that in six months he can turn Eliza Doolittle, a lower-class flower seller, into a lady accepted by high society.

That is, of course, the plot of “My Fair Lady.”

The source of that beloved Lerner and Loewe musical was George Bernard Shaw’s equally entertaini­ng play “Pygmalion.”

The Theatre of Western Springs is presenting that source play Jan. 25-Feb. 4, under the direction of Downers Grove resident Ray Frewen.

Performanc­es are 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays.

Frewen is an admitted Shaw fanatic, since he was cast in a production of Shaw’s “Arms and the Man” when he was 15 years old.

“It began there and by the time I got to college I started studying it.”

Frewen said he was drawn to Shaw’s works by “the way he uses the language and how clever he is. It is so well-written.”

Frewen earned Jeff nomination­s for playing Henry Higgins in two production­s of “My Fair Lady,” and has directed that show as well.

He agreed to direct “Pygmalion,” he said, because “I have always felt that ‘Pygmalion’ to ‘My Fair Lady’ is possibly the finest musical adaptation from source material.”

He said the musical was actually adapted from the screenplay, also written by Shaw, which won an Academy Award.

The biggest difference between the play and the musical is the ending. We won’t give it away but Frewen said that with either version it is apparent that, in terms of the relationsh­ip between Eliza and Henry Higgins, “she had an incredibly strong effect on him.”

Frewen praised Ashley Kennedy who plays Eliza. “She handles the language so well,” he said, adding that the challenge is “Getting somebody who can really handle the language of both

the full Cockney and the street person that she is and then become the elegant person post transforma­tion.”

“I fell in love originally with Eliza from ‘My Fair Lady,’ ” Kennedy said. “I loved her spunk and her spirit and her determinat­ion in that show. And all of that is still the case in ‘Pygmalion.’ ”

Kennedy added that Eliza didn’t just go “from being a helpless being to one that has ambition and strength. That was always within her.”

The actor said that playing Eliza was her longtime dream. It was so important to her that the former La Grange Park resident, who moved to California in 2022, returned to town to play the role.

“It’s a wonderful cast who really cares about bringing this story to life,” Kennedy concluded. “And the director is encouragin­g us and wanting us to explore these choices and figure out these really intricate nuances.”

Frewen reported that he saw Danny Parrott of Arlington Heights, who plays Henry Higgins, in “Clue” at the Theatre of Western Springs last year. “He had a very dry sense of humor which I thought was going to work well,” Frewen observed. “He’s got a very relaxed presence onstage.”

“He’s not the greatest guy in the world but he’s sort of lovable at the same time,” Parrott said of Henry Higgins. “He’s a snooty

Brit for an age gone by and he thinks very highly of himself and his skills.”

The congenial Parrott indicated that it’s a challenge playing someone so different from him, but he took the part because “I’ve always wanted to do Shaw because I love the writing.”

Parrott added that the opportunit­y to work with Kennedy again, with whom he performed in “Ravenscrof­t” at the Theatre of Western Springs about five years ago, “made the whole thing even more attractive to me.”

Working with Frewen is another plus for Parrott. “I’ve never met anyone that knows more about George Bernard Shaw than Ray Frewen does,” he declared. “And him having played my role in particular has given me the opportunit­y to have a tremendous resource.”

 ?? EDDIE SUGARMAN ?? Tom Viskocil is Colonel Pickering, from left, Danny Parrott is Professor Henry Higgins and Ashley Kennedy is Eliza Doolittle in “Pygmalion,” presented Jan. 25-Feb. 4 at the Theatre of Western Springs.
EDDIE SUGARMAN Tom Viskocil is Colonel Pickering, from left, Danny Parrott is Professor Henry Higgins and Ashley Kennedy is Eliza Doolittle in “Pygmalion,” presented Jan. 25-Feb. 4 at the Theatre of Western Springs.

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