Interview: My Fair Lady meets Steampunk at Front Row Centre
Lerner and Lowe’s My Fair Lady is definitely high on my list of favourite musicals, but I’ve seen it so often that I might have given Front Row Centre’s current production – its first at the Beddington Community Arts Centre – a pass, if it were not for the fact that director Jamie Eastgaard-Ross has chosen to give it a Steampunk twist. I’m no expert on the subject, but as near as I can tell if you can imagine a cross between the Victorian-era (1837-1901) and science fiction (with lots of cogs and gears and such), you get the idea. I can see how the concept - and especially the costumes – might be a good fit for story of an Edwardian-era (1901-1910) cockney flower girl who’s taken under the wing of a snobbish speech professor and turned into a lady.
Allie Higgins-Pompu, who plays Eliza, says that Front Row Centre’s production manages to keep the integrity of the script, while incorporating futuristic elements in the costumes (Danielle Demarais), music (Danielle Wahl) and choreography (Magz Ross). “It’s amazing how it’s all come together,” says Allie. “The Steampunk element makes it interesting for people who might not normally be into musicals (for example, the local Steampunk club, who I’m told are coming), yet it’s still accessible to traditional My Fair Lady fans”.
Allie was born and raised in Calgary and has been doing theatre for a few years – mostly with Storybook Theatre. “This is my first show with Front Row Centre, and I jumped at the chance to play Eliza,” says Allie. “Surprisingly, the show doesn’t get done that often, and it’s a dream role for a female lead. I’m particularly fortunate to be playing across from Michael Brown, who’s terrific as Professor Henry Higgins”
Allie says she’s been daunted by the size of the role since taking it on. “It’s insane how much there is for Eliza to do”, says Allie, “and of course people have images in their mind of Audrey Hepburn and Julie Andrews in the role – they are such huge stars. My goal is to give Eliza my own portrayal, while hopefully still living up to peoples’ expectations.”
Despite the fact they’ve only had 33 rehearsals since the end of August – a short rehearsal period by community theatre standards – Allie says they’re completely ready. “We’re a tight cast,” she says. “We really function as a team, no matter what size our role is, and it’s amazing how hard everyone works. This has been one of my best theatre experiences because of that”.
Allie says that her current favourite musical is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Song and Dance. “I’m not normally a huge ALW fan,” she explains, “but Bernadette Peters is one of my favourite performers and I love the first half where she does a one-woman show. I have so many favourites, though, you could ask me again next week, and I’d give you a different answer.”
Allie is a first year Bachelor of Music student at Ambrose University College in Calgary, the only voice programme in town. “I’m still figuring out where I want to go with my music,” she says. “I’m studying classical voice, and considering opera at the moment. Regardless, I love musical theatre and hope I can keep doing that, no matter which path my career takes me”.
Front Row Centre’s Production of My Fair Lady opened this past weekend and plays at the Beddington Community Arts Centre until November 23. Tickets are $25 regular, $22 for students and seniors and $15 on Tuesdays and Matinees. If you’re thinking of going this weekend, you may want to book ahead, as tickets are starting to sell out. The Calgary Musicals+ Meetup Group is going on Saturday night if you’d care to join us.
For more information and tickets go to www.frontrowcentre.ca
If you’re interested in Steampunk, check out the The Calgary Steampunk Assemblage on Meetup. If you want to go to the show dressed up (and you are encouraged to do so, I’m sure), check out this book: How to Steampunk Your Wardrobe.