My Fair Lady Cast, Chicago 2024I grew up with "My Fair Lady" - Alan Lerner and Frederick Loewe's musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion." The movie and its music are a part of my life. I recall with fondness the charm and beauty of Audrey Hepburn and the sarcastic wit of Rex Harrison. Hepburn and Harrison are gone, but the show remains, and it came to Chicago's Nederlander Theater for a brief run this month.

Phonetics experts Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering meet flower girl Eliza Dolittle on the streets of London and decide they can transform her from a lowly guttersnipe into a lady by teaching her to speak and behave appropriately. They are successful, but their success comes at a cost.

Jonathan Grunert was excellent as Professor Henry Higgins, the brilliant but arrogant mentor. He seemed to channel Jim Parsons's portrayal of Sheldon Cooper in "The Big Bang Theory." Cuban American actress played Eliza, and although she lacked the beauty and grace of Audrey Hepburn (who doesn't), she charmed audiences by expertly showing the growth of her character throughout the show. John Adkins chose to give his Colonel Pickering character more youth, energy, and a touch of femininity to his character. This choice suited the show, as I have always wondered if Higgins and Pickering shared any latent attraction for one another.

Of course, the music is outstanding, and this cast did the classic songs justice. Lerner and Lowe packed the show with classics like "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," "Get Me to the Church on Time," and "I Could Have Danced All Night." The dancing, costumes, and set designs only improved the production.

SPOILER ALERT: This version made a subtle but significant change to the ending. In the original version, Eliza returns to Higgins's home. He sees her and responds jokingly: "Where the devil are my slippers," to which Eliza smiles knowingly. In this updated version, Eliza walks away from him when he asks for his slippers - an indication that she is reinforcing her boundaries and unwilling to accept life with Higgins unless he changes his ways.

Today is the final performance of this show’s one-week Chicago run. If you have time, I recommend a visit back to early 20th-century London or the films of my youth.