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Educating Pygmalion time and again

December, 2009

Long ago and far away, Pygmalion of Cyprus, a slave revealed to be of Royal blood and restored as a king, decided what he really wanted to be was a sculptor. And what better inspiration than Galatea, the sea nymph, who, carved from ivory, then came to life.

Like the Cinderella story, this ancient tale has been the template for numerous retellings dressed up in contemporary garb. W.S. Gilbert made a lot of money with his 1871 verse play called Pygmalion and Galatea and that was before he teamed up with Sullivan.

The most famous version, of course, was Shaw’s 1913 play (later movie) called, well, Pygmalion, which was turned into the hit musical (and movie) My Fair Lady. The 1990 movie Pretty Woman continued this theme. In these earlier incarnations, the Pygmalion figure improved the diction or status of the female object. However, the 1980 British play Educating Rita (later, yep, a movie) put a spin on this plot, whereby the jaded Pyggie professor finds that he has a lot to learn from the spunky student, Liverpuddlian hair dresser Rita (nee Susan).

Although not stated in the script, I suspect that Susan/Rita is Irish, like many from Liverpool (the Beatles). Where else did she get that spunk?

You can see this role reversal with witty repartee at the latest in a string of hits at the Segal Theatre Centre. Ric Reid is pitch perfect as the prof and NTS alumna Carly Street as the charming lass, all against an impressive set designed by award winning John Dinning. The director, Marcia Kash, has herself played the role of Rita several times so she had added insight in sculpting this proven comedy drama to our eyes and ears.

Educating Rita continues at the Segal until December 13. Call 514-739-7944

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