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"The Moscow Times" ,
The musical, like sin, is an irresistible force in Russia. This genre which spewed forth from the American myth-making factories of Broadway and Hollywood gives Russian theatrical minds no peace. The latest to fall victim to the voluptuous dream is the Et Cetera Theater and Dmitry Bertman personally who has staged a Russianized "My Fair Lady" using Frederick Loewe's music and borrowing some of Alan Jay Lerner's lyrics. The story itself, lifted from Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion," was heavily re-imagined by Ksenia Dragunskaya. Higgins now is a British Slavicist who comes to Russia to study the modern Moscow dialect. Liza is a slang-talking Russian girl whom he whisks off to London to teach her to speak English. Some of the more amusing scenes take place in the cramped apartment of Liza's parents, two typical "simple folk." Everyone knows the genre of the musical has nothing to do with reality or sense. The sillier the plot the more likely it is to have success. I cannot speak for the potential success of this "My Fair Lady," but a more inane tale I seldom have seen. If the justification of Higgins is that he has come to Moscow to study Russian, why does he run off to London? Why do actors portraying Russians burst into song in English? And why do actors playing Englishmen speak Russian while Russian characters often speak English? The answers, of course, are that in the musical, nothing matters but the music and the costumes. Loewe's music remains charming. I dare you to leave the theater not humming "With a Little Bit of Luck" whether you want to or not. Most of the costumes by Igor Nezhny and Tatyana Tulubyeva are quite pleasant. Bertman gave the numbers a brisk pace. A few, such as Liza's bedtime scene leading into "I Could Have Danced All Night," are cleverly constructed. Overall, the cast works hard and I admired them for that. That is especially true of Natalya Blagikh as Liza. She genuinely brought life, charm and a warm voice to this blithely lame tale. 'I now wish to make my readers a solemn promise: I never again will review a show in which an actor performs in blackface. Why this version posits Higgins' housekeeper Miss Pierce as a black woman I haven't the vaguest notion, although I am sure it was very, very important artistically. Still, the black make-up smudged on the actress's face and arms did me in. Never again.