Tabor to debut ‘My Fair Lady’ and Richert Auditorium

The 'My Fair Lady" casts rehearses a dance scene in preparation for the show's debut at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18.
The 'My Fair Lady" casts rehearses a dance scene in preparation for the show's debut at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18.
When the curtain rises at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, launching the first of four performances of the Tabor College production of “My Fair Lady,” it will mark not only opening night for the beloved musical, but also the debut of Richert Auditorium as the state-of-the-art venue for major theatrical productions within the Shari Flaming Center for the Arts.

The musical’s familiar story line features a rough-around-the-edges Eliza Doolittle (played by Tori Boyd), who enters Henry Higgins’ study for speech lessons to lift herself from her life as a lowly flower seller in the London streets. She becomes the subject of a bet in which Higgins (played by Cody Kroeker) claims that Eliza, by the power of polished speech, will pass for high class in just a few weeks’ time.

The production features many memorable tunes, including, “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “Get Me to the Church on Time” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.”

For director Laurel Koerner, the move to Richert Auditorium from the traditional H.W. Lohrenz Chapel has created new opportunities for staging the production.

“The technology and system that this auditorium includes allows us to do scenery and lighting effects to a degree we have not been able to before,” Koerner said. “We have a designated orchestra pit, which is another delightful quality we haven’t had before. In the past, we’ve always had to design the sets, and in some way hide the orchestra somewhere — which is uncomfortable for them and creates a lot of design challenges for us. So, the overall quality that we’ll be able to achieve will surpass anything Tabor’s seen here before.”

The new fly stage — a massive system of pulleys and cables — enables scenery pieces to be “flown” to new locations quickly and permits more complicated scene designs than was previously possible. An additional improvement is all-LED lighting that can change bulb color on command as well as reduce the heat generated by traditional lighting.

The facility has designated space for a scene shop, which gives set designer and technical director Ethan Koerner unprecedented space for building sets with convenient access to the main stage. The smaller Prieb Harder Black Box Theater nearby offers cast members space to rehearse or warm up prior to going on stage.

In addition to the constructed scenery, Koerner is excited about the costumes created by lead designer Lily Arthur and student designer Arian Moye.

“I’m so enamored of them,” Koerner said of the costumes. “This show is worth it just to see their work. We have 20 people who will need to change costumes really quickly backstage, and that requires space. That’s something we never could have pulled off before having what we have here.”

But with additional advantages come additional pressures.

“It does feel like a lot of attention is being paid to what this space is capable of,” Koerner said. “So we tried to choose a show that would allow us to demonstrate what it can do and what our program can do while supporting our existing mission of putting the education of our students first and bringing meaningful artistic experiences to the community.”

The musical begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. For the first time, tickets can be purchased online at tabor.edu/tickets . The price is $15 for the general public and $10 for students. Also online is a “My Fair Lady Fundraiser.” Supporters of Tabor’s theater program can “sponsor” the costume of a character, or characters, for a minimum donation of $50 per vote.