'My Fair Lady' opens Friday at the Romance Theater - East Idaho News
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‘My Fair Lady’ opens Friday at the Romance Theater

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REXBURG — “Wouldn’t it be lovely” to come inside, “far away from the cold night air” for some live theater?

The city of Rexburg and the Rexburg Cultural Arts Department will present the classic musical “My Fair Lady” from Friday to March 16 at the historic Romance Theater at 2 East Main Street in Rexburg. It’s a production months in the making, performed by the Romance Theater Acting Co.

Tickets are available in advance at rexburgarts.org for $12 (plus service fees) for adults and $10 for 11 and under. If available, tickets are $15 at the door. The production is sponsored by 1 Assist Care, which provides assisted living services at home.

“For our first big family musical, with this new theater program, we wanted to give an opportunity to people of all ages to be in a great show,” says director Kaatia Larsen. “We wanted to make sure that we chose something classic and well-known but that hadn’t been done here in a while that we could put a fresh spin on. ‘My Fair Lady’ has everything you could want in a musical: comedy, drama, romance, conflict and resolution, action, and a lot of fun. The music is iconic, nostalgic, memorable, and it’s a good mix of ballads, upbeat dance numbers and everything in between.”

Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins are two of musical theater’s most memorable characters, and Larsen says that’s because they give a poignant profile of humanity.

“The characters are unforgettable,” she says. “It’s a story that all other musicals have been measured by because it has everything you would want in a show but also because it is so, so relatable. It has love, loss, pride, hardship, overcoming trials, self-discovery, humility, forgiveness, and kind of a coming-of-age that happens too. That’s why it speaks to so many people.”

William Talbot plays Eliza’s troublemaking father in 'My Fair Lady
William Talbot plays Eliza’s troublemaking father in ‘My Fair Lady,’ performed by the Romance Theater Acting Co. | Courtesy Kaatia Larsen

Higgins, a language professor played by Devin Cameron, is “pompous, brilliant, and clever and is very accomplished,” Larsen says. “But socially, his manners are so bad that his mom doesn’t even want to admit that he’s her son.”

When the audience meets Doolittle, played by Sarah Nelson, she’s a common flower girl with a thick Cockney accent, trying to get by on the streets of London. Higgins thinks he can refine her and convince others that she’s a sophisticated, high-class member of society.

“He’s trying to make her a lady and teach her manners and teach her how to speak and how to behave, but he’s horrible himself,” Larsen says. “It’s kind of hysterical that way.”

The irony is, of course, that the common flower girl has much to teach the distinguished professor.

“She brings more depth to his purpose and helps him realize that he sees the world a certain way and sees everybody in it a certain way,” Larsen says. “She’s the one that opens him up to real relationships and real connections and to start caring about people, and it gives his life more meaning.”

The cast features a mix of theater veterans and newcomers, including students and professors from Brigham Young University-Idaho. There are several sets of family members participating in the show together, and a fun cameo from some of the community’s littlest thespians.

Community is what the Rexburg Cultural Arts theater program is all about, Larsen says.

Sarah Nelson as Eliza Doolittle teaches Tom Bugg, who plays Freddy
Sarah Nelson as Eliza Doolittle teaches Tom Bugg a lesson in his role as Freddy in ‘My Fair Lady,’ opening Friday at the Romance Theater in Rexburg. | Courtesy Kaatia Larsen

“Our emphasis is on collaboration and teamwork and unity from day one,” she says. “I’ve tried hard to create an environment where everybody feels like they’re valuable and important and part of the whole project. It’s really contributed to the feel of the group. Everyone is so kind and so helpful and so eager to just get in there and do their best. It’s probably the most fun-loving, great cast I’ve ever experienced.”

Once “My Fair Lady” wraps, it will be time to get in gear for the company’s upcoming summer camps. Rexburg Cultural Arts will do a summer camp production of “Stone Soup: The Musical” for ages 6 to 11, and “Footloose: Youth Edition” for ages 12 to 18. Last year’s camps sold out, so Larsen encourages anyone interested in participating to sign up soon.

“We focus on bringing in coaches in all of the areas of theater,” she says. “Acting, tech, dancing, singing, accents and character work. And some of those coaches are professionals in their field. (The kids) get to learn all about how the theater works, even doing their own concessions, and they get to make their own props and costume pieces.”

To find more information on summer camps or to buy tickets to “My Fair Lady,” visit rexburgarts.org.