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Charlie starred as Henry Higgins in a production of My Fair Lady at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera July 8th through July 20th, 2003 as part of their Summer season of musicals.

A letter from Charlie about his experience in Pittsburgh doing My Fair Lady at the Pittsburgh CLO


In the immortal words of Lerner and Lowe: " By George, I really did it!!"

I have to say that playing Henry Higgins in the Pittsburgh CLO production of "My Fair Lady" was one of the high points of my professional career. It was a pretty awesome challenge from the beginning. I had just one week of rehearsal time; it was my first musical, a character that was hardly ever off stage and the ghost of none less than Rex Harrison to lay! Needless to say I arrived in Pittsburgh experiencing a heady cocktail of emotions ranging from abject terror to heart-stopping excitement.

Lori Berger, the Company Manager, who quickly became my "Guardian Angel", met me at the airport. She made me feel as "at home" as I could, making sure I had the creature comforts and conveniences necessary to allow me to concentrate on climbing this mountain. I cannot say enough about the whole CLO Staff: they were the nicest, most supportive and enthusiastic group of people. . .and extremely efficient. The organization runs like clockwork. I can only imagine the logistics of moving a whole company in every two weeks and getting a new play up in one!!

After a few hours of sleep that night, it was off to fittings and rehearsal the next morning. I had already met a couple of the cast, specifically the darling Patricia Fraser who played my mother and Lenny Wolpe, who was a mesmerizing Alfred Doolittle, as well as the Director, Glenn Casale. But with an opening night just seven days away there was no time for standing on ceremony or being shy, so we all exchanged hearty greetings and plunged into the work. Glenn immediately proved himself to be one of the most creative, passionate, intelligent and, most importantly, organized directors I have ever worked with. Actually, probably THE most! I really would not want to attempt this schedule again without him. One of the most remarkable things about the rehearsals was that we did not even meet the ensemble until the end of the week.

For those of you that saw the Production, those extraordinarily talented young men and women of the ensemble, who dazzled with their singing and dancing, were not woven into the rest of the show until about three days before opening!! That's not to say they were strangers until then. Most of us were living in these short-term apartments across the bridge on the North Shore. We were shuttled back and forth to the theatre for rehearsals and shows in a van driven by the patient Gary. While the principals were rehearsing MFL, the ensemble actors were performing in "Annie" at night and rehearsing their routines for MFL in a separate room during the day. These amazing kids REALLY earned their paycheck! Of course it was also invaluable experience for them, more than you could get in twenty years of college or Performing Arts School curricula.

Back in our rehearsal room that was intricately marked out by Eric, our omnipotent Stage Manager, so that it faithfully reproduced the dimensions we would later encounter on stage, we were plowing through Shaw's brilliant but wordy script and Messrs. Lerner and Lowe's beautiful score. The CLO's success in pulling off such marvelous productions in such short a time lies in the talent of certain key individuals in key positions. One such example is Tom Helm who is their Musical Director. He not only arranges all the music before rehearsals begin, but works through the score with the actors, accompanies the rehearsals (ably assisted this season by his intern, Richard,) and conducts the orchestra in performance. He is another person who will be conducting one show at night, rehearsing another during the day and "prepping" a third in the meantime!!! He knew I was a bit nervous about my first adventure in "Musical Land" and was totally encouraging and supportive of what I was doing. I felt in very good hands and was able to relax and have fun with my songs, which is, after all, half the battle.

My fellow cast members were each and every one of them, an actor's dream-team. I had most of my scenes with Glory Crampton, who was playing Eliza, but I also worked a lot with Lenny, Patricia and Ed Lyndeck, who played Pickering. I should also mention the warm and lovely performance Terry Wickline gave as my housekeeper, Mrs. Pierce. They were all wonderfully talented and creative actors. Once we had got the initial "blocking" down we were able to have a lot of fun discovering nuances and bits of " business" with each other. Glenn helped us and encouraged us to explore these complex characters, but always with one eye on the clock and our breathless schedule. It was a joyful and exhilarating process. At the end of the week the ensemble joined us and we got to run through some of the big musical numbers with their added voices and dancing. It provided a fantastic boost of energy and vitality. It was really beginning to look like a great show. Before we knew it we were starting our "Tech" on Monday night. This is where we get on stage for the first time and walked through the entire show with sets, costumes and props. But no orchestra. The orchestra run came the next day on Tuesday afternoon. But at the orchestra run we were without costumes and some of the sets! That meant that the very first time we ran through the whole show with all the elements together (sets, costumes, music etc.) was on Tuesday night in front of about 3,000 people and the critics!!! Yup, "right out of the hat it's that big First Night. . . !"

For me the thrill of being back onstage and performing "live" to a few thousand people each night was intoxicating. As the run went on I got more and more comfortable with the role and began to try new things. We had such a solid basis to the show that we had the freedom to do that and stay true to the work we had all done. Another great thrill for me was the wonderful reception I got from all of you who came to see the show. Some traveled from all over the country (one or two from even further away!!) and to all of you I want to say a heartfelt "Thank You." It meant a lot to me and I am glad I had the chance to see some of you in person after the show at the stage door. And thank you to Pittsburgh for your hospitality and warmth. Now I am back home in LA, but busy plotting my next foray onto the stage and the world of Musical Theatre!


Rehearsal and production photos from My Fair Lady. Copyright Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera used with permission. Photographer Matt Polk

click on the smaller image to see the larger image


Charles 4 Charles 1 Charles 3
Charles 2 Charles 5 Glory and Charles
mfl5 mfl2 mfl4
mfl3 mfl1


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Next you will find a combination of Charlie's Pittsburgh photos and photos that many of you that saw the show sent in for us to use.

If you click on the smaller images, a larger image will open. On those pages, if you choose to view the photos by clicking "next," or "previous," the title of the photo will appear at the top of each photo's browser window page.


the theatre marquee
the theatre marquee
part of the gang that makes it all happen
part of the gang that makes it all happen
some of the photos of the actors for the summer & their shows
some of the photos of the actors for the summer & their shows
the playbills from all the shows
the playbills from all the shows
gary catching 40 winks before another run . . .
gary catching 40 winks before another run . . .
lenny wolpe, alfred p. doolittle
lenny wolpe, alfred p. doolittle
patricia fraser, mrs. higgins
patricia fraser, mrs. higgins
garrett miller and justin tanner of the company
garrett miller and justin tanner of the company
charlie getting made up before the show
charlie getting made up before the show
glory crampton doing a makeup touch up
glory crampton doing a makeup touch up
charlie and kathleen sullivan  the wardrobe supervisor
charlie and kathleen sullivan the wardrobe supervisor
charlie and glory crampton, eliza
charlie and glory crampton, eliza
charlie and lori berger, company manager
charlie and lori berger, company manager
charlie and tom helm, the wonderful music director
charlie and tom helm, the wonderful music director
charlie and his dresser, gary
charlie and his dresser, gary
charlie and glory crampton
charlie and glory crampton
Eric Santagata, Meg Pryor, Pilar Millhollen, Jason Coll from the company
Eric Santagata, Meg Pryor, Pilar Millhollen, Jason Coll from the company
ed lyndeck,  lisa yuen and jo ellen miller from the company and glory crampton
ed lyndeck, lisa yuen and jo ellen miller from the company and glory crampton
your name in lights!!
your name in lights!!
the pittsburgh cultural trust's jumbo-tron with video footage of the play
the pittsburgh cultural trust's jumbo-tron with video footage of the play
eliza and henry when they first meet in Covent Garden
eliza and henry when they first meet in Covent Garden
move your bloomin 'arse!!
move your bloomin 'arse!!
eliza and henry at the ball
eliza and henry at the ball
henry higgins after the ball
henry higgins after the ball "you did it"
the advertisement for the show
the advertisement for the show
the
the "famous" benedum stage door
charlie after a show signing autographs
charlie after a show signing autographs
charlie with barb from ohio
charlie with barb from ohio
charlie with sammi, barb's daughter, from ohio
charlie with sammi, barb's daughter, from ohio
charlie with susanne from vienna, austria
charlie with susanne from vienna, austria
charlie with jenn from canada
charlie with jenn from canada
charlie with missy from pennsylvania
charlie with missy from pennsylvania
charlie signing an autograph for missy from pennsylvania
charlie signing an autograph for missy from pennsylvania
the family arrives!! susan, looking out the window
the family arrives!! susan, looking out the window
jenny and maddy ready to go to the theatre the first night
jenny and maddy ready to go to the theatre the first night
charlie and susan - this is one happy guy!
charlie and susan - this is one happy guy!
the pirates stadium at night
the pirates stadium at night
duquesne incline  up to mt. washington
duquesne incline up to mt. washington
the remarkable fireworks show over pirates stadium
the remarkable fireworks show over pirates stadium
and more fireworks. . .
more fireworks. . .
KABOOM!!!
KABOOM!!!
charlie waiting for a ride to the theatre, the final night
charlie waiting for a ride to the theatre, the final night
charlie and max von essen, the delightful freddy
charlie and max von essen, the delightful freddy
susan, jenny and maddy going to the theatre, the final night
susan, jenny and maddy going to the theatre, the final night
the gateway clipper fleet at station square
the gateway clipper fleet at station square
pnc park
pnc park
pittsburgh skyline
pittsburgh skyline
heinz field   home of the pittsburgh steelers
heinz field home of the pittsburgh steelers
more skyline from the boat


more skyline from the boa

a barge on the river
a barge on the river
pittspurgh plate glass company in the skyline
pittspurgh plate glass company in the skyline
the bridges we crossed each day
the bridges we crossed each day
the dancing fountains at station square
the dancing fountains at station square
the family and one of the many artistic dinosaurs in the city
the family and one of the many artistic dinosaurs in the city
relaxing at starbucks with a cigar and a
relaxing at starbucks with a cigar and a "decaf wet cap"
final cigar. . .and then home
final cigar. . .and then home
kellysandrageorgia
kelly and her mom sandra from georgia
jenniferohio
jennifer from ohio
charlesauto1
charlie signing an autograph
csjenncanada
jennifer from canada
csshirah2
Shirah from Florida and Charlie
csalone
just charlie
csshirah1
Shirah from Florida and Charlie


Actor looking forward to CLO's 'My Fair Lady' Sunday, July 06, 2003

By: Patti Conley - Pittsburgh Times Staff

PITTSBURGH - Charles Shaughnessy isn't accustomed to playing the role of Professor Henry Higgins in the musical "My Fair Lady," but, be assured, the Englishman understands from where the pretentious phonetics professor doth come.

Shaughnessy is Henry Higgins.

Sort of.

So Shaughnessy's wife, Susan, claims and the 40-something star of TV soap opera and sitcom fame admits.

"I tend to play slightly impatient academics or people who live on a slightly different plane from the others, and are a little impatient and intolerant of their slowness or inability to follow me," Shaughnessy said by telephone during a break from rehearsals for the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera's production of "My Fair Lady, " which opens Tuesday evening at the Benedum Center.

Consider Higgins. The rich confirmed bachelor bets he can teach Eliza Doolittle, a cockney flower vendor, to speak the English language so articulately that she'll become the bell of a grand ball.

And consider Shaughnessy's TV portrayal of Maxwell Sheffield, a prim and proper British producer who hired Fran, a nasal and flashy gal from Flushing, N.Y., as a nanny for his three children in the hit 1990s sitcom "The Nanny." He played Sheffield opposite actress Fran Drescher for six years.

Shaughnessy has a bit of both gentlemen's manners in his genes.

"I have to be honest," Shaughnessy said. "If you were asking my wife, she would be nodding her head furiously. I can see that I can be intolerant at times," he pauses and laughs "And there's a certain facility with language and an enjoyment of language that I have. I love language and speaking English. I love doing Shakespeare and the classics."

And for some time, he's wanted to play Henry Higgins, a role that he thought would be a perfect fit for him.

"The reason that an actor plays a role is that someone has seen something in the actor's persona that echoes or mirrors the character. That is why I played Maxwell Sheffield or Henry Higgins. It's not all a coincidence," Shaughnessy said.

The character connection also spills into his personal life.

Both Higgins and Sheffield are dealing with a woman who comes from a completely different world. They are both trying to educate her to the other world and yet keep her at an emotional distance.

In the end, she gets under their skin.

"I'm an Englishman from a private-school-education background, and my wife is from a public school in Studio City, Calif., a Valley girl who finished high school and comes from a completely different world. We were like Higgins and Eliza when we met. A young Englishman and a California beach bunny," Shaughnessy said.

The former Susan Fallender is an actress from a Russian Jewish family. He's an English/Irish Catholic boy who grew up in a show business family. They've been married for 20 years and are parents to two daughters, Jenny and Maddy.

"It can be the best thing when you have two opposites who don't have a lot in common," Shaughnessy said. "You spend a lot of time discovering each other, and you are consistently intrigued and surprised and enchanted by the foreignness."

Yet the role is a challenge. A veteran of theater, this is Shaughnessy's first musical, and there's quite a lot of material to master in a short eight-day rehearsal schedule.

He's been learning his lines for some time and sang the solos while driving in his car and at home in Santa Monica, Calif. Here in Pittsburgh, there simply isn't enough time to worry about not having enough rehearsal time.

"It's just focus, focus, focus. No TV. No books. The difficulty is switching it off at night. ... All the songs and the words are going around in my head. It's hard to pull the plug," he said.

"My Fair Lady" is Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's musical interpretation of the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw's 1913 "Pygmalion." It opened on Broadway on March 15, 1956, with Rex Harrison as Higgins and Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolitte. The film "My Fair Lady" came to the big screen with Harrison and Audrey Hepburn in 1964. Both were huge hits.

Shaughnessy believes that Shaw wrote contemporary dialogue like no one else and that Lerner and Loewe wonderfully wove music with Shaw's dialogue, literally word for word.

"They were brilliant in folding in the most appropriate song at the most appropriate times," said Shaughnessy, who added that he couldn't think of a better musical adaptation of a play. "Instead of undermining the play, they gave it such a sparkle with the music."

The musical and movie versions of "My Fair Lady," unlike the original play, have a happy ending, a controversial change at the time.

"I don't think that it's a problem. It's an alternative ending that is equally viable," the actor said.

Shaughnessy, who was born and grew up in London, saw the 1964 movie "My Fair Lady" movie as a youngster, but now enjoys it far more, again because he appreciates the language far more.

Particular scenes give him goosebumps: when Eliza first says "The rain in Spain"; when Higgins realizes his goal of teaching Eliza to speak well is possible; the moment Eliza comes down the stairs ready to go to the ball as a vision of poise and elegance; when Higgins sings "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" and knows what she means to him.

Shaughnessy will perform the role through July 20 in Pittsburgh and hopes to play Higgins again.

"It would be very sad to do all this work and enjoy him and then put him into mothballs," he said.

However, Shaughnessy has put some roles behind him.

For six years, he played leading man Shane Donovan on the soap opera "Days of Our Lives." "In some ways a musical has a lot of similarities to soap operas in that there are very clearly orchestrated dramatic moments surrounded by a lot of leading up to the moments," he explained.

As for the Sheffield role, "I was not disappointed when ("The Nanny") finished. I was ready to move on. I'm proud of the show," he said.

He doesn't draw distinctions in acting in different media - daytime TV to nighttime TV to movies to the stage. "They're all about actors telling stories through characters that they play and finding moments of drama," he said.

And many have happy endings. Like "The Nanny" did.

Shaughnessy guesses that in sitcom life Fran and Maxwell are moving to California where she'll produce movies and he'll be a house mom.

As for Higgins and Eliza, their story is on stage at the Benedum.

And for Shaughnessy, when Susan and their daughters visit Pittsburgh, he'll have grown quite accustomed to being Henry Higgins.


Stage Preview: Soap, sitcom, 'toon star Shaughnessy tackles musical role for CLO Sunday, July 06, 2003 By Sharon Eberson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Staff Writer


Television viewers know Charles Shaughnessy mostly as the dashing Shane Donovan of the soap opera "Days of Our Lives" or the ditzy yet dashing Mr. Sheffield of the sitcom "The Nanny." Now add to the London-born actor's varied resume his first role in musical theater, as the proper and pompous Henry Higgins, for Pittsburgh CLO's "My Fair Lady."

Charles Shaughnessy arrived last week to rehearse for his first musical role: Henry Higgins in CLO's "My Fair Lady." (Matt Polk)

Pittsburgh CLO's
"My Fair Lady"

Where: Benedum Center, Downtown.
Starring: Charles Shaughnessy, Glory Crampton.
When: Tuesday through July 20; 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; and 7:30 p.m. July 13.
Tickets: $12 to $44; 412-456-6666.


All this, and a shiny award he won at the recent Daytime Emmys for his portrayal of ... a goldfish.

That's Dennis, the scene-stealing pet on the Disney Channel animated series, "Stanley."

"After all that classical training," he says with a chuckle from his Los Angeles home. Even over the phone, you can envision him smiling and shaking his head, perhaps reliving moments with Cambridge's famed Footlights Revue comedy troupe, drama school in London, and then on to touring repertory before arriving on the Los Angeles theater scene.

In the summer of "Finding Nemo," being another fish in Disney's vast sea isn't such a bad thing.

"He's a great goldfish," Shaughnessy, 48, says of Dennis.

"This business is so strange. The big success is so unexpected, and 'Stanley' is such a phenomenon in the under-8 age group. A pretty low demographic, but it's an extremely vociferous one."

He found that out when he and his family, wife Susan and two daughters, recently went to Disneyland for the opening of a live "Stanley" show.

"The lines were unbelievable. The whole park was trying to get into the show," Shaughnessy marvels.

There's another live show very much on his mind these days. "My Fair Lady," which runs at the Benedum Center Tuesday through July 20, came into Shaughnessy's life at just the right time, although he's still not quite sure how the stars aligned in just the right way to bring him to Pittsburgh.

It started with a call from his agent about auditions for the Los Angeles production of "The Producers."

"He asked, would I like to go and audition for the part of the German writer, which I'm totally wrong for," Shaughnessy recalls. "Franz Liebkind was something I could not see myself as. But I thought, I'd been wanting to get into musicals for a long time, and it would be extremely frightening to go to New York and audition for a full-out Broadway show, but that's why I had to do it.

"So I flew out to New York and I'm walking the streets of Manhattan and thinking, 'What the hell am I doing here?' But I went to the audition, which was absolutely terrifying, with Susan Stroman and 12 members of her production team. But I survived and not only survived, but I did a decent job, and I heard afterward that she liked me. ... Then I came back and told my wife, what would be perfect now would be to do "My Fair Lady."

Three days later came another call from his agent, who said, "I don't know if you'd be interested, but there's a production of 'My Fair Lady' at the Benedum in Pittsburgh."

Of course, he said yes to this "next logical step," a step that's different from any other theatrical experience he's had, and not just because it's a musical. Shaughnessy is doing all the preparation at home in LA, and then coming here for a quick rehearsal schedule. Before this week, there'd been no back-and-forth with Glory Crampton's Eliza or up-close and personal instruction from director Glenn Casale.

Shaughnessy also is taking singing lessons, even though Higgins is written for an actor to sing-song his way through, as made famous by Rex Harrison. And that's fine with this musical first-timer.

"I can sneak into musical without hitting those high Cs or whatever," he says. Still, "I would like to do a little more singing than Rex Harrison did. I think the contrast works best if there are passages that are sung."

Shaughnessy's not worried about audiences' familiarity with the material or that the role is so identified with Harrison, or even that theatergoers might strongly identify him with his television roles. He expects that the audience will be willing "to go on the journey" with him.

If anything, familiarity is what draws Shaughnessy to "My Fair Lady," which to his mind is "the best musical adaptation of a play."

"I'm not saying it's the best musical, but as an adaptation of a play, because Lerner and Loewe kept every word of [George Bernard] Shaw's dialogue. I mean, the dialogue is right out of 'Pygmalion.' And then they just had a knack, they were just brilliant at writing lyrics and songs that I think, were Shaw to have been a musician, I don't think he could have written anything more Shavian than these particular lyrics. They did such a good job of stitching the music into the Shavian fabric that it turns out to be a really remarkable musical version of the play."

Shaughnessy recalls a trip to Pittsburgh in the 1980s for a "'Days jaunt." It was a time when he also was speaking out against nuclear proliferation for a group called "Beyond War" and gave a series of talks at Juniata College.

This time, by George, he's come to town as the star of a musical production, and he said he's in talks for a possible musical tour next year.

"I'm really just doing ["My Fair Lady"] because I think it's a great experience to have," Shaughnessy says.

"I love Shaw and I'm doing Shaw's dialogue, which has some great musical interludes for Higgins. But it's primarily just a great play."


The Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera is housed at the beautifully restored 2,885 seat Benedum Center for the Performing Arts in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh's Benedum Center is the result of a $42 million restoration and expansion of the Stanley Theatre, built in 1928 as "a movie palace version of Versailles." This one-time vaudeville hall has been renovated with grand style. Every detail - from the 500,000-piece crystal chandelier to the gilded plasterwork - has been restored or replicated and after its two-year renovation, it looks as it did on opening night in 1928.

The signature piece of the Benedum Center, the original main chandelier, weighs 4,700 pounds and measures 20 feet high and 12 feet wide. The Grand Lobby mirrors, marble and woodwork are all original and at the landing on each staircase in the Grand Lobby are 18-foot high original mirrors meant to be reminiscent of the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles. The Benedum Center was named the "Number One Auditorium in the U.S." by Billboard and the stage is one of the largest in the country.


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