‘My Fair Lady’ cast members share behind-the-scenes thoughts on production

Henry Higgins is the talented, arrogant professor whose painful lessons transform Eliza Doolittle into “My Fair Lady.”

The musical had a smashing debut Tuesday at Savannah Center and runs through Thursday with sold-out performances.

Mary Jo Vitale, who plays Eliza, and Alex Santoriello – as Higgins – had their own feelings about the class-conscious professor.

Vitale said her favorite song in the musical was “Without You.” Why?

“So I could tell him (Higgins) off,” Vitale said after the opening night performance. One of the joys of this musical was Vitale’s performance and the way she verbally fences with Higgins.

Santoriello – who sometimes seems as loud and mercurial off-stage as he is on – came to his own revelations about Higgins.

Alex Santoriello, as the arrogant Henry Higgins, working with Mary Jo Vitale as Eliza Doolittle.

“At first, I didn’t like the guy,” said Santoriello, who also directed the play. “Then I came to realize … that everything I saw in him that I didn’t like, was a reflection of me. Then I realized, he’s not such a bad guy, he’s just an arrogant…”

Santoriello said that with a smile, but as a teacher, director and theatrical force in The Villages, he can come on strong. Just like Higgins.

“Alex can be a real pain, but you learn so much working with him – he is an awesome teacher” said Dawn DiNome, who has appeared with Santoriello in numerous local productions.

Tim Casey had only a few weeks to prepare for the role of Alfred Doolittle in ‘My Fair Lady.’

Tim Casey had to be a quick study in “My Fair Lady.” Casey assumed the crucial role of Alfred P. Doolittle – Liza’s father – a few weeks ago, after a cast member became ill.

“I had to learn fast, but he’s a fun character,” said Casey. He appears in two big production numbers, “A Little Bit of Luck” and “Get Me to the Church On Time.”
“The hardest part was the dancing,” Casey said.

Mark Steven Schmidt played Freddy, a guy with a hopeless crush on Eliza. He also took lessons on the role.

“I was too prim and proper,” Schmidt said in the Savannah Center lobby after the opening night performance. “Alex wanted me to give the character more depth and warmth. I was more (overt) in expressing myself to Eliza, and it worked.”

Schmidt sang “On the Street Where You Live” to thunderous applause and it was a vocal highlight.

Mark Steven Schmidt, as Freddy, falls hard for Mary Jo Vitale, as Eliza, in ‘My Fair Lady.’

The biggest challenge for Schmidt?

“That English accent,” he said. “Alex kept urging all of us to keep working on that English accent.”

What else would you expect from Henry Higgins?

Tony Violanti is an award-winning journalist and writes for Villages-News.com.

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