The talent behind a musical production is not limited to the stage. The sets and costumes contribute to the production, as well as the personalities themselves.
“The innovating ideas” of Jacob Price, a University of Arkansas at Fort Smith theater major, have led to the creation “of a set that will do well in our space,” said Valerie Valentine, volunteer director for the Fort Smith Little Theater’s upcoming production of "My Fair Lady." While having seating two feet from the edge of the stage has the benefit of allowing the audience to be part of the performance, it also places limits on the set’s design, she said. Price faced the challenge of producing multiple settings in the theater’s intimate space.
The design and costuming done by Hannah Curlin, head costumer for the musical, never gets enough recognition, said Valentine. It truly points to the musical’s time period.
Curlin has researched the relevant 1912 time period in which the musical was cast and the 1964 production of the musical, starring Audrey Hepburn, she said. She has recreated the iconic look of Cecil Beaton, costume designer for the 1964 production.
In addition to playing Col. Pickering, Eric Krigbaum is making the wigs, Curlin said.
“He love(s) theater (and has) been trying to learn more about hair and makeup,” Curlin said of Krigbaum.
Some of the women in the cast sew as a hobby, Curlin said. They are pulling double duty lending their talents and assisting with costume preparation as well as portraying the characters they have been cast to play.
The upcoming production of "My Fair Lady" is “definitely a classic musical many will recognize,” said Valentine. The musical, based on George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion,” presents a “great story about how you can better yourself by working hard,” she said. It also has a “lot more dynamics (as a musical) than as a straight play.”
Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. July 19-21, July 25-28 and August 2-4 and for 2 p.m. July 22 and 29 at the Fort Smith Little Theatre, 401 N. Sixth St. in Fort Smith. Tickets are $30 for the opening gala performance July 19 and $15 for all other performances and are available by calling the theater box office at (479) 783-2966, ext. 2.
All who attend the show will be introduced to a “great cast (with a) lot of new faces,” Valentine said. “I love the music. It is very nostalgic, and it will stick in your head for days.”
The cast has been really fun, Valentine said. “They really become the characters and bring the story to life.”
The cast includes Sarah Curlin as Eliza Doolittle, Valentine said. Sarah Curlin is fairly well known at the theater. She appears about once per year, Valentine said, and has appeared in a lot of Jane Austen shows. “The role (of Eliza) was just made for her,” Valentine said. She “will make Eliza come to life.”
Doolittle is “a hardworking, independent woman who wants to better herself,” Sarah Curlin said. Doolittle and Higgins “change each other for the better,” she said. Throughout the transformation of her character, Doolittle maintains her independence.
Benjamin Baldwin will take the stage as Henry Higgins. He has performed in two other productions at Fort Smith Little Theater, Valentine said. He has a film background, and he takes his role seriously, she said. He becomes Higgins to the point “you believe he is Higgins.”
The role is in the top five of his bucket list roles, Baldwin said.
“Higgins is a fun and challenging character to portray,” Baldwin said.
Jordan Garton, who plays the role of Mrs. Pearce, provides the audience with “beautiful moments,” Valentine said. “She just makes us laugh.”
The cast ranges in age from their teens to early 80s, Valentine said. The youngest member of the cast is Coleman Smith, who is part of the male chorus. He is appearing in the first show he has ever done, Valentine said. Teaching him how to conduct himself both on and off stage as an actor has been fun.
George Mann is the music director, and he has done the sequencing for all the music, Valentine said. “He is truly an amazing talent,” she said. George can get the best out of everyone’s voice.”
Baldwin and Sarah Curlin each praised both Valentine and Mann as the show’s director and music director, respectively. They were also both very complimentary of each other in their roles. They both also referred to "My Fair Lady" as a long-time favorite musical.
When supporters come out to watch the show, they are supporting the community at large, Valentine said. The cast and crew are primarily from Fort Smith, Greenwood and Van Buren, she said. There are several, however, from outside the immediate vicinity, including Ozark, Fayetteville and Russellville.
“Come and watch a story,” Valentine said. “Watch it unfold and get immersed in (it).”
Editor's Note: The Times Record is a sponsor of the Fort Smith Little Theatre.