The Light Opera Group of the Negev (LOGON), the veteran English speaking musical theater company, will be presenting My Fair Lady in ten performances around the country in February and March. Based on George Bernard Shaw's play, Pygmalion, My Fair Lady is one of the most popular and well-loved musicals ever, and considered one of the best shows of the 20th century.
With book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, My Fair Lady is about Eliza Doolittle, an unrefined, cockney flower girl, who takes speech lessons from expert phonetician Professor Henry Higgins. Higgins has made a bet with fellow linguist, Colonel Pickering, that he can transform Eliza into a lady. He does, and a young aristocrat, Freddy Eynsford-Hill, falls madly in love with her. When Higgins takes all the credit and forgets to acknowledge her efforts, Eliza angrily leaves him for Freddy, and suddenly Higgins realizes he's grown accustomed to her face and can't really live without her.
The legendary musical's 1956 Broadway production was a smash hit, setting a new record for the longest run of any major musical theater production in history. It was followed by the London production, a popular film version, and numerous revivals throughout the world. While those of us from English speaking countries are very familiar with My Fair Lady, it has also had hugely successful runs in Israel in its Hebrew version. The first production was in 1964 and it has been produced several times since. In the 1980's the popular Israeli singer, Rita, got her start playing Eliza. Translator Dan Almagor wrote an article for the Foreign Ministry titled "How 'The Rain in Spain' Fell in Eretz-Israel". He recalled that he found the key to the Hebrew translation when he rendered the crucial sentence that Higgins uses to teach his pupil to pronounce English correctly, as "Barad yarad bidrom sfarad ha’erev" ("Hail fell this evening in southern Spain") retaining, at least, the association with Spain.
For whatever reason, however, no amateur or professional company to date (as far as we know) has ever produced My Fair Lady in English in Israel. After waiting for many years, LOGON has finally seized the opportunity to put on this show. Again this season, the company's veteran members are joined on stage by several newcomers of all ages from the Negev area. This season two of our leads are new immigrants: Eliza Doolittle is being played by Ruth Reyes-Cohen, who now lives in Ashdod. Her ne'er-do-well father Alfred P. Doolittle is played by Londoner (and true cockney) Bernie Goodman, who lives in Ashkelon.
Ruth, originally from Puerto Rico, grew up in countries around the world, eventually going to university in Colorado, U.S.A. Trained in voice and performing both classical and jazz music, she began singing musical theater five years ago at Colorado College in conjunction with the Colorado Opera Theater of the Rockies.
She moved to Israel three years ago, and last February married her Israeli husband, Idan. She discovered LOGON through the Internet, and decided to audition for the role. The range of accents from cockney to posh has been a real challenge, "but I've been listening to recordings of Pygmalion non-stop. I have so much fun at LOGON, and really enjoy everyone's company. LOGON has become like a family for me," she adds.
Bernie made aliyah from London a little over a year ago. Recently retired, he drove a London cab for 33 years. His wife Rhoda was executive director of the London office of Shaare Tzedek Hospital. A member of the amateur "Greasepaint" company in London, Bernie relates that "there were a number of groups I wanted to join, but there was always the problem of performances on Shabbat." Last year Bernie performed with the Old Barn Theater in Moshav Orot where he met some LOGONites, who persuaded him to audition for a part in My Fair Lady. The directors figured he was a natural for the part of Doolittle.
The part of Professor Higgins is played by Eric Isaacson, and Colonel Pickering by Amiel Schotz, both of whom have featured in many LOGON productions. The same team that created LOGON’s successful production last season of “Guys & Dolls”, will be directing My Fair Lady: Yaacov Amsellem, director; David Waldmann, musical director and Keshet Margalit-Stein, choreographer. Keshet married Leo Stein during the run of Guys & Dolls last year. They had met when Leo played Cornelius Hackl in LOGON’s production of Hello Dolly in 2007.
LOGON produces a new Broadway musical every year, performing throughout the country. Apart from those in Beer Sheva, all performances are used by charity groups as fundraising events.
Call ESRA 09 748 2957 for tickets
For information about other performances contact LOGON: 08 641 4081 or see LOGON’s new website: www.negevlightopera.com.