'My Fair Lady' cast perfects production VTC Liberty students set May 14 opening


Senior Tamara Mitchell does double duty in Liberty High School's "My Fair Lady" production.

She plays the lead, Eliza Doolittle, and she coaches bowing in the play, which begins a four-show run at the school May 14.

As the cast rehearses its first encounter with royalty, Tamara has her work cut out for her.

The queen walks majestically across the stage as a line of her devoted subjects bend forward clumsily, out of sync. The scene looks more like an afternoon in the ballpark after the home team scores.

"This is not the wave, guys; you are supposed to bow," shouts Tamara, the last in line of subjects and, apparently, the only one with bow know-how.

She pulls from her ballet background and bends one knee gracefully and positions her hands respectfully.

"A curtsy would look better," she says, lifting her head.

A few demonstrations later, the cast attempts the scene again. No more waves. The stage takes on a more courtly air.

"Wait until you get eye contact, then go down," said Kathy Schnorr, drama teacher. "Think grand, stately."

Her Royal Highness, sophomore Beth Rudnick, looks pleased as she cups her hand beneath Eliza's chin and says, "Charming, charming."

That makes one scene down and at least a dozen to go as the cast prepares the musical for next week's opening.

"Stop. Here are location problems," said Ms. Schnorr, repositioning characters in the big ballroom scene. "There is too big a hole in the center of the stage."

Dancing resumes as several couples glide across the stage to the strains of a waltz.

"Colin, don't dance," shouts Ms. Schnorr to a student with outstretched arms circling the lead dancers. "Just cut in."

Everyone laughs at Colin Bisasky -- as Zoltan Karpathy -- tries for a chance to dance with Eliza.

In addition to moves, the cast is practicing British and Cockney accents.

"You memorized your lines well, Higgins," said teacher Cathy James. "Now, put some umph behind them."

The musical drama tells the story of Eliza's transformation under the tutelage of Henry Higgins, played by senior Brandon Schreiner.

"You will speak beautifully like a lady in a florist shop," Henry Higgins promises Eliza. "Or else, you will have your head cut off as a warning to all presumptuous flower girls."

The show goes on with much help from behind the scenes, Ms. Schnorr said.

"What are we doing with the house lights?" she asks her crew.

The lighting crew always works out the glitches, said junior Matt Burkhart.

"We mark down where the set pieces are and make sure there are no shadows on stage," he says as darkness suddenly envelops the stage. "Oops, that didn't work."

A few doors away from the auditorium, Rachael Bradley and her costume crew are sewing frantically to put together about 40 costumes.

"We started three weeks ago, and we will be done in time even if we have to pull all-nighters," she said.

Two sewing machines hum constantly as Rachael's assistants fit players for costumes and add appropriate accessories. Some seamstresses spill out into the hallway, where they cover the floor with patterns and fabric.

Rachael, a junior, has been stitching school play costumes for three years. She said pandemonium doesn't deter her. She moves material through her machine and at the same time, directs three girls making aprons by hand.

"Gather, gather," she says. "It's just a basic stitch. Anyone can do it."

Lights, costumes, and "veddy British dialogue" will all come together by opening night, said Ms. James confidently.

"My Fair Lady" comes to Liberty's stage 7:30 p.m. May 14, 15, 21 and 22. Admission is $3. Information: 795-8100.

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