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'My Fair Lady' review: Laura Benanti soars among terrific new cast members

It's as though the Tony winner has been waiting her whole life to play Eliza Doolittle.

Laura Benanti is perfect for the role of

Laura Benanti is perfect for the role of Eliza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady." Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

'My Fair Lady'  plays an open at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center Theater. 150 W. 65th St., lct.org.

Tony winner Laura Benanti, playing Eliza Doolittle in the lush and lavish Broadway revival of “My Fair Lady” (directed by Bartlett Sher, produced by Lincoln Center Theater), is a perfect match, in which one of today’s best stage actresses gets to tackle one of the greatest roles in the musical theater canon.

Lauren Ambrose (who originally played Eliza in this revival and received a Tony nomination) was radiant in the role, but Benanti has such a command of her vocal and acting abilities that it takes the production to a whole new level.

Benanti’s performance is so rich, vigorous and fully developed that she makes virtually every line and every moment count. You get the impression that Eliza, who transforms from poor Cockney flower girl to confident society beauty via lessons from Professor Henry Higgins, is her dream role and she has been thinking over how to play it for years.

Harry Hadden-Paton continues to play the grouchy and self-loving Higgins, and his performance has developed nicely, becoming much more expressive and assertive. He also displays wonderful chemistry with Benanti. Their late confrontation scene (after Eliza has deserted Higgins for his ingratitude) is emotionally packed.

Other new cast members include Danny Burstein (“Fiddler on the Roof”) as a high-riding but tough Alfred P. Doolittle, 91-year-old Rosemary Harris as an affectionate Mrs. Higgins and Christian Dante White as an exuberant Freddy Eynsford-Hill.

Upon a second viewing, one also comes to appreciate the contributions by original cast members in less prominent roles, including Allan Corduner as the chummy Colonel Pickering and Linda Mugleston as the starch Mrs. Pearce.

It is unclear how much longer “My Fair Lady” will remain on Broadway. Sher’s revival of “South Pacific” lasted two and a half years, while “The King and I” ran a little more than a year. It would be terrific to see other worthy stage performers tackle the roles of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins, but this production has already provided Broadway audiences with a considerable and continuing amount of joy.

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