Manhattan Arts Center breathes life into “My Fair Lady”

Rachel Hunt smiles during a scene with Evan Tuttle. The high energy cast hopes to bring a unique twist to the musical "My Fair Lady." (Rowan Jones | Collegian Media Group)

The Manhattan Arts Center will open their rendition of “My Fair Lady” to the public on Friday.

“My Fair Lady” may be best known for the 1964 feature film starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. The musical, based off George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” is a timeless classic.

For the cast and crew of the arts center’s performance, previous renditions seem to have little influence on their own creative expressions. From direction to casting, there is creative independence.

“’My Fair Lady’ is a high-energy classic musical that has modern implications for female rights but also for the inner depth of people beyond what is their language, beyond what is their outside, its the core of who we are,” Janelle Ginsburg, who plays Mrs. Higgins, said. “It’s so much fun to see, but it’s also got a depth of spirit to that you won’t regret coming.”

Evan Tuttle, who plays Henry Higgins, said he hadn’t seen the movie in 20 years.

“I don’t like to fill my brain with the influences of other people that have played the role,” Tuttle said. “So I just come to it freshly and honestly.”

Instead, Tuttle chose to draw from his own personal experience.

“I took time off from acting,” he said. “And I think coming back to it as an adult having lived, experienced real life, pain, suffering human things, you’re just a lot more open and sensitive to the subtext … the importance of every single word in the script.”

The cast for “My Fair Lady” is full of veteran actors, but first-time performer Matt Kroll, who portrays a bartender and quartet cockney, said he appreciated what the arts center has done to overcome some of the challenges of community theater.

“We’ve really come together as a group,” Kroll said. “They’ve really welcomed me and made me feel part of the group.”

Head choreographer Lainee Ross, who has worked with the arts center since 2015, said at first she was concerned about the size of the cast but was surprised at the speed in which they learned the choreography.

“Manhattan Arts is kind of all about family, and it takes a village,” Ross said. “I think that everyone in this cast kind of appreciates that.”

Director Penny Cullers said she is most excited to see if the audience will catch the center’s small changes to the script.

Cullers was in the last production of “My Fair Lady” at Kansas State.

“That’s when I fell in love with this show,” Cullers said. “The joy that it brings, as a K-State student that was one of my most meaningful experiences. I still have a memory of closing night. I’m not a crier, but I was crying when the show was closing, because it was the last time I would hear it. For me to be able to bring that to life for other people … is exciting.”

“My Fair Lady” will show the weekends of Sept. 28, Oct. 5 and Oct. 12.

Show are at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, while Sundays have a 2:30 p.m. matinee.

Adult tickets are $20 for section A seating and $17 for section B seating. Those with valid military ID will receive a discount and children’s tickets are $13 for section A seating and $10 for section B seating.