Northwestern’s Dolphin Show is the transformative “My Fair Lady”

Avi Small, Reporter

The Dolphin Show, one of Northwestern’s annual musical theater traditions, claims to be the largest student-produced musical in the country. Any visitor to Cahn Auditorium for a performance of this year’s Dolphin Show, “My Fair Lady,” will be able to see what an incredible accomplishment that is.

“My Fair Lady” tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a cockney flower girl who’s taken in by the wealthy Professor Henry Higgins. Higgins, an expert in linguistics, makes a bet with his friend Colonel Pickering that he can transform Eliza from a commoner into a high-class lady using language. As Higgins’ project progresses and Doolittle transforms, “My Fair Lady” tackles issues of class and sex in a way that is refreshingly modern, thanks to Tristan Powell’s direction.

Powell creates a vibrant and arresting visual landscape for “My Fair Lady.” Especially memorable are the beautifully choreographed and costumed scenes that take place at the Ascot Races and a society ball. Through innovative use of color, movement and lighting, the creative team shows us a London that is recognizable but inimitable. Powell directed “My Fair Lady” in a way that no one else could have — his unique vision masterfully shapes this production.

This production is lucky to have a gifted cast that can bring the creative vision to life. As Doolittle, Lillie Cummings is a marvel. Her charismatic presence grabs the audience from the very first scene and doesn’t let go until the curtain call. As the misogynistic Professor Higgins, Nick Day expertly walks the line between loveable jerk and unlovable prat; we’re simultaneously attracted and repulsed by his charming misanthropy. In a feat of creative inspiration, Colonel Pickering (Jake Perlman), Higgins’ colleague, is played as quite the dandy — he has some of the best laugh lines in the show.

The supporting cast is remarkable as well. Of note is Justin Schuman who found the Bea Arthur within the character of Mrs. Higgins (and special credit goes to the creative team for his impressive hair and makeup — Schuman’s transformation would make Eliza Doolittle envious). The merry drunken trio of Harry (Hillary Aarons), Jamie (Fergus Inder) and Alfred P. Doolittle (Gaby Hornig)  is wonderful comic relief and leads the best musical number in the show.

Exciting and innovative, this performance of “My Fair Lady” is a wonderful celebration of the artistic talent we have here at NU. At no other school in the country are students directing, producing and acting in a production of this caliber. The cast and crew of “My Fair Lady” should be extraordinarily proud of what they’ve accomplished; the NU community should be as well.