Musical theater's beloved "My Fair Lady" arrives at Arena Stage for the holidays. Directed by Molly Smith, it stars Canadian actor Benedict Campbell as Professor Henry Higgins, Manna Nichols as Eliza Doolittle and Nicholas Rodriguez as Freddy Eynsford-Hill. Among the creative team members that Smith brings along from the Shaw Festival production are choreographer Daniel Pelzig, musical director Paul Sportelli, costume designer Judith Bowden and lighting designer Jock Munro.
"I most enjoy portraying Henry Higgins for his forthrightness and his belief that there is a way to have a better world," Campbell said. "He has a dogged way of going about discovering his own human heart and opening it up to Eliza. Molly and I worked together on the production at the Shaw Festival last season, so it's a great pleasure to reprise the role with her at Arena Stage. She's a force of nature, enthusiastic, positive about life, art and our place in the world.
"I don't classify myself as a singer like Manna and Nicholas who are well-trained and a pleasure to watch, but I've been in a number of musicals and can carry a tune. My favorite number in the show is 'I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face' because it's a summation of Higgins' journey and the way he has become the man he wants to be," Campbell said.
|'My Fair Lady'|
|» Where: Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW|
|» When: Saturday through Jan. 6|
|» Info:$45 to 94; 202-488-3300; arenastage.org|
Campbell grew up in Stratford, Ontario, in the footsteps of his father, actor and director Douglas Campbell. He thought briefly about careers in architecture or aviation but soon agreed with his father that they were merely roles he was acting out. After following his sister to study at the renowned Bristol Old Vic, he joined England's National Arts Centre acting company and began immersing himself in Shakespeare and other classic plays.
Although his heart is riveted to the stage, Campbell frequently spreads his talents to television and film and can often be heard as voice-overs on cartoons. With a resume that includes the greatest plays ever written, he has many favorites, currently anything mounted by the Shaw Festival. Of the roles not yet played, King Lear is tops on his wish list. At the close of "My Fair Lady," he will return to Canada and audition for television openings in Toronto. Come March, however, he is scheduled to appear first in Shaw's "Major Barbara," then two one-act plays by Eugene O'Neill.
"The ending of 'My Fair Lady' is ambiguous, so people are left to make their own conclusions," he said. "Do Higgins and Eliza become a couple, or are they wedded in friendship for the rest of their lives? Whatever the Arena audience members decide, I hope they discover that even a brash and arrogant soul has a heart."
The opening date has been moved from Friday to Saturday. Patrons who had reserved tickets for Friday's performance should call the sales office to exchange for another performance.