2018-03-07 / Front Page

PHS Student Actors Warming Up For ‘My Fair Lady’

by David Pugh
Buckeye Staff Writer


Five members of the cast of the Pettisville High School production of “My Fair Lady,” to be presented March 15-18. From the top: Josh Bock, Birch Baer, Zach Basselman, Mayzie Clark, Gretchen Lee. The show requires some of the actors to speak in a cockney accent, but they said learning it was not a problem.– photo by David Pugh Five members of the cast of the Pettisville High School production of “My Fair Lady,” to be presented March 15-18. From the top: Josh Bock, Birch Baer, Zach Basselman, Mayzie Clark, Gretchen Lee. The show requires some of the actors to speak in a cockney accent, but they said learning it was not a problem.– photo by David Pugh Stage shows that require actors to use unfamiliar accents can be particularly challenging.

Case in point is “My Fair Lady,” the musical that will be presented by Pettisville High School March 15-18.

As Birch Baer, a PHS junior explained, the plot of the show takes a common flower girl from 1912 London’s lower classes and, “transforms her into an upper class citizen… specifically through language.”

As a member of the lower class, the lead character, Eliza Doolittle, played by Mayzie Clark, a freshman, speaks with a heavy cockney accent used by workingclass Londoners.

The story starts out with Professor Henry Higgins, played by Zach Basselman, and Colonel Hugh Pickering, played by Josh Bock, both juniors.

Higgins bets Pickering that he can teach a humble flower girl, Eliza, with her cockney accent, to speak with a proper voice and pass her off as a member of the upper crust.

Most know the story from the 1964 motion picture by the same name.

Clark said her cockney wasn’t too hard to learn.

“I just kind of watched the movie on repeat,” she said.

She’ll use the accent during the school day, “sometimes if I’m joking around, or talking about the musical.”

Baer plays different roles in the show, including, “Cockney Number Two.”

He said learning the accent wasn’t hard.

“I just kind of listen to them, and go along. I don’t have too many lines, but singing– I have to do that, too.”

In the accent?

“Sorta,” Baer said.

Movie Characters

Since the movie version of the show was so popular, will the PHS actors pattern their characters after those in the film?

Basselman said, “Sort of. In the movie, Rex Harrison, when he played Henry Higgins, he didn’t really sing. I figured I might sing a few of the songs, so I changed that.”

“I just kind of do what I feel is right,” Bock said.

With, of course, the guidance of the director, Duane Beck, PHS vocal music teacher.

“He always tells us to just do it the way we think we should, and if it’s wrong, he’ll tell us,” Bock said.

“The director is always right,” Clark said.

Gretchen Lee, a senior, plays Mrs. Higgins, Henry’s mother.

Learning to voice her character “wasn’t so hard, but trying to figure out my posture is tricky.

“I have to be old, but I have to stand up straight, so it’s trying to balance when I’m supposed to be hunched over and when I am sitting up straight, because she’s trained to have good posture. I’m still trying to figure out the physical aspect of it.

“I don’t have any challenges with posture, but we’re involved in all the major dance numbers, so that’s sometimes a challenge,” Baer said.

Moral

Isn’t taking a flower girl and attempting to pass her off as nobility for fun a little contemptible?

“I think it starts out that way, but towards the end, both Higgins and Pickering start to care for Eliza,” Bock said.

“More so Pickering,” Clark said.

Does the show have a message?

“Generally, you just can’t, like, slap labels on everyone, I think,” Clark said.

Lee added, “I think there’s a really important line that Eliza says later on in Act 2, about how it’s not where a person comes from, but how people treat them that determines their status.

“So throughout the play, Henry sort of treats Eliza as a flower girl, because that’s what he knows her to be, but, she uses the example of Col. Pickering treating her as a lady rather than a flower girl, and that’s what makes her a lady is the fact she’s treated as such, rather than taught to be such.”

Who will enjoy “My Fair Lady?”

“Everyone,” Lee said, adding, “I really enjoyed the movie when I was younger.

“I think for certain kids, they will enjoy it, just because it’s humor and it’s different, because of the setting, and the exploration of the accents and different societies.”

“I was going to say anyone between 35 and 50. My mom really likes this musical,” Clark said.

Ending

Basselman said, in the novel (“Pygmalion,” by Alan Jay Lerner) the story ends with Eliza marrying a nobleman.

“Somehow (for the film), they wanted to make the ending a bit happier, so they left it a bit open,” so there could have been a relationship between Eliza and Henry.

Baer suggested, “We should do something for the Sunday night show that seals it up.”

Perhaps, at least on Sunday night, the ending may not be so open.

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