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Faring well: Guthrie's 'My Fair Lady' earns loverly reviews

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The Guthrie Theater's summer production is often one of the biggest and most well-attended shows of the year, and this year's featured offering, My Fair Lady, is a solid crowd-pleaser, according to local reviewers.

The classic musical, with music and lyrics by Lerner and Loewe, adapts George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, telling the story of how a British linguistics professor meets and then trains Eliza Doolittle, a "guttersnipe" with a Cockney accent whom he bumps into while she is selling flowers.

The Guthrie production, directed by Joe Dowling, earned accolades in the Star Tribune's review for its staging, costumes, set and choreography. "This “Fair Lady” will fill your head for an evening and whisper away in the morning," the review said.

The Pioneer Press said the show was "bright and fresh," and praises the staging, costumes and "lively supporting characters" as well as the leads. "The Guthrie clearly has thrown everything it has into making this a lavishly entertaining evening, but the show is fluid and effortless," critic Chris Hewitt writes. "For three hours, we get to step into the world of one of the classics of musical theater, and the experience is just loverly."

And in City Pages, critic Ed Huyck writes that "the Guthrie's midsummer blockbusters are often a bore, offering work that is crowd-pleasing but lacking in depth and vibrant energy," but not this time; he finds My Fair Lady to be "gorgeous to look at and listen to."

A critic can almost always find a few bones to pick. In his Star Tribune review, Graydon Royce wrote that "the fair lady of the title is a feisty street urchin in actor Helen Anker’s hands," but that her voice is "merely adequate," and falls short in some signature numbers.

But writing on MPR's State of the Arts, Eric Ringham found Anker's singing was authentic to the role, writing that "Anker gives Eliza a ragged voice that sometimes wanders off pitch, as it would if she spent her days breathing cold, sooty air and hawking flowers."

It's not just professional critics who like the show. Minnesota blogger Sarah Young, who writes at Editionallyblog.com, posted a review after seeing a Sunday matinee.

"It was the best production I’ve ever seen at the Guthrie. Or anywhere. I don’t think it gets much better," she wrote. "The music, the acting, the costumes, the set — oh, the set! — were incredible."

KARE took viewers behind the scenes at the Guthrie with a story featuring Anker and costume designer Fabio Toblini.

My Fair Lady continues through Aug. 31. Ticket prices range from $34-$85.

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