31 Jan
METRMAG Spotlight On: Jonathan Grunert aka “Professor Henry Higgins” in "MY FAIR LADY" coming to the Hanover Theatre (Worcester, MA.)

(Cover Photo: JONATHAN GRUNERT appears as "Professor Henry Higgins" in the acclaimed Lerner and Loewe musical "MY FAIR LADY" coming to the Hanover Theatre in Worcester, MA. beginning February 16, 2024. Photo Courtesy jonathangrunert.com)

By Kevin T. Baldwin

METRMAG Reviewer

# 774-242-6724

METRMAG Spotlight On: Jonathan Grunert aka “Professor Henry Higgins” in "MY FAIR LADY" coming to the Hanover Theatre

The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts

Presents Lerner & Loewe's Iconic Musical


Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner 

Music by Frederick Loewe 

Directed by Bartlett Sher 

Associate Director Samantha Saltzman 

Music Director/Conductor - David Andrews Rogers 

Choreography by Christopher Gattelli 

Tour Choreographer Jim Cooney 

Music Supervisor Ted Sperling

Cast Includes: Anette Barrios-Torres as “Eliza Doolittle,” Jonathan Grunert as “Professor Henry Higgins,” John Adkison as “Colonel Pickering,” Maeghin Mueller as “Mrs. Pearce,” Nathan Haltiwanger as “Freddy Eynsford-Hill,” Michael Hegarty as “Alfred P. Doolittle,” Becky Saunders as “Mrs. Higgins,” Lauren Emily Alagna as “Higgins' Maids, Ensemble,” Evan Bertram as “Higgins' Maids, Ensemble, U/S Eliza Doolittle,” Nicholas Carroll as “Harry, Footman, Ensemble, U/S Professor Henry Higgins, U/S Colonel Pickering,” Ryaan Farhadi as “Jamie, The “Loverly” Quartet, Hoxton Man, Ensemble, U/S Alfred P. Doolittle,” Andrew Fehrenbacher as “Frank The Bartender, Footman, Ensemble, U/S Professor Henry Higgins, U/S Colonel Pickering,” Kelly Gleason as “Flower Girl, Higgins' Maids, Ensemble, Assistant Dance Captain,” Jackson Hurt as “The “Loverly” Quartet, Steward, Higgins' Butler, Ensemble, U/S Freddy Eynsford-Hill,” Christopher Isolano as “Zoltan Karpathy, Selsey Man, U/S Alfred P. Doolittle,” Michelle Lemon as “Lady Boxington, Ensemble,” Jessica Ordaz as “Mrs. Hopkins, Higgins' Maids, Ensemble, U/S Mrs. Pearce,” Rafa Pepén as “Constable, Ensemble,” Kumari Small as “Ms. Clara Eynsford-Hill, Ensemble,” Charlie Tingen as “The “Loverly” Quartet, Lord Boxington, Higgins’ Butlers, Ensemble, U/S Freddy Eynsford-Hill,” Gill Vaughn-Spencer as “The “Loverly” Quartet, Constable, Ensemble,” John Viso as “Charles, Ensemble,” Gerri Weagraff as “Queen of Transylvania, Ensemble, U/S Mrs. Higgins, U/S Mrs. Pearce,” Mary Beth Webber as “Mrs. Eynsford-Hill, Ensemble, U/S Mrs. Higgins,” Nick Berke as “Swing, Dance Captain, Fight Captain, Assistant Choreographer,” Shannon Conboy as “Ensemble, Onstage Swing,” Derek Luscutoff as “Ensemble, Onstage Swing,” Ashton Norris as “Swing” (NOTE: Information obtained from tour website subject to change)   

Additional Creative Team: 

Scenic Design - Michael Yeargan; Associate Set Designer - Mikiko Suzuki Macadams; Costume Design - Catherine Zuber; Lighting Design - Donald Holder; Sound Design - Marc Salzberg; Sound Design - Beth Lake; Hair And Wigs - Tom Watson; Casting – ARC, Amber Snead, CSA; Orchestrations, 1894–1981 - Robert Russell Bennett; Orchestrations, 1911–1986 - Philip J. Lang; New Orchestrations - Josh Clayton, Larry Blank; Dance & Incidental Music Arrangements, 1908–2005 - Trude Rittmann; Music Coordinator - Talitha Fehr; Production Stage Manager - Rebecca Radziejeski; Assistant Stage Manager - Zoe Steenwyk; Company Manager - James A. Woodard; Assistant Company Manager - Abi Steinberg; General Manager - Andrew Terlizzi; Production Manager - Gregg Damanti;     Technical Director - Dave Burch; Producer & Tour Management - Crossroads Live; Tour Booking Agency - The Booking Group, Neuro Tour; Lincoln Center Theater - Physical Therapy (NOTE: Information obtained from tour website subject to change)   


February 16, 2024 through February 18, 2024  

(Contact Box Office for Exact Times)

Presented at the HANOVER THEATRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, 2 Southbridge St., Worcester. 


For Tickets and more information call # 877-571-SHOW (7469) or email info@thehanovertheatre.org



Contact Venue for Most Updated COVID-19 Safety Protocols and Information.

(Photo: Actor JONATHAN GRUNERT appears as "Professor Henry Higgins" in the acclaimed Lerner and Loewe musical "MY FAIR LADY" coming to the Hanover Theatre in Worcester, MA. beginning February 16, 2024. Photo Courtesy jonathangrunert.com)

METRMAG Spotlight On: Jonathan Grunert aka “Professor Henry Higgins” in "MY FAIR LADY" coming to the Hanover Theatre

It is hard to imagine but the legendary musical "MY FAIR LADY" - coming to the Hanover Theatre in Worcester this February - is nearing 80 years old.

More surprising, for some, is the fact that the story is far older than some might realize.

The musical is based upon the George Bernard Shaw classic play "Pygmalion" which was written 111 years ago in 1913.

With book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, "MY FAIR LADY" took Broadway by storm in 1956, then setting a record for the longest run of any musical on Broadway and winning six Tony Awards, including Best Musical. 

Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews starred in both the Broadway and London productions. Harrison would go on to star in the 1964 film adaptation with actress Audrey Hepburn (with Hepburn's songs dubbed in as sung by the legendary "ghost singer" Marni Nixon). The film would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Yet, even more than a century later, in 2024, as evidenced in this latest revival by director Bartlett Sher, the material still maintains its relevance. 

It focuses on the idea that long-held perceptions of class and social hierarchy can - and should be - upended on occasion, if the circumstances dictate and, in the Lerner and Loewe musical adaptation of the Shaw story, circumstances certainly do. 

METRMag chats with actor JONATHAN GRUNERT who takes on the role of "Professor Henry Higgins" for the latest touring production of "MY FAIR LADY." 

According to his website, jonathangrunert.com, GRUNERT has worked in may areas of the country including New York, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia

But where the actor originally hails from might surprise a few who might be expecting a very posh sounding and very British "Henry Higgins." 

"I'm actually from Texas, the Dallas/Fort Worth area," GRUNERT says.

The actor hasn't a trace of a 'Texas twang,' as he is not only exceptionally trained but, according to his resume, has experience in multiple dialects including "Standard British RP/Scottish/Irish/ Estuary/Southern Dialects." 

GRUNERT holds a BFA in Acting from Southern Methodist University and also an MFA in Acting from FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training

Yet what does GRUNERT remember about his very first time acting before an audience? 

"I was in fifth grade and I got to be in a production of 'The Music Man' at the high school. They asked my parents who brought me in and, once I was involved, that’s really where I got bit by the bug," GRUNERT says.

GRUNERT recalls his decision to pursue acting, even as it eventually became his chosen profession, always had his family's full backing.

"My family was always supportive," GRUNERT says. "As a kid, they would always be driving me to choir lessons or rushing me to get into into the car to get me to rehearsals on time. They'd be like 'Hurry up! Get in the car! We have play practice today!" 

"Our high school had a fantastic theatre program (along with speech and debate and drama) and we went to go to see performances in the state or travel to go see shows at other stages - and I used to dream of being on those stages someday," GRUNERT recalls. "It has been a real 'full circle moment' to now be revisiting these stages around where I grew up. Again, as a kid watching and seeing other people perform on those stages. Now, suddenly,, here I am - performing on those very same stages. On the same stages I literally dreamed of being on."

(Photo: Actor JONATHAN GRUNERT appears as "Mercutio" in a production of "Romeo & Juliet" at Asolo Repertory Theatre in Florida. Photo Credit Cliff Roles from website jonathangrunert.com)

Among GRUNERT'S many impressive stage credits he has taken on the leads of "Billy" in the musical “Chicago” and "Trevor Graydon" in “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” 

On the New York stage, he appeared as "Heathcliff" in "Wuthering Heights" at the Mint Theatre Space.  

GRUNERT notes a pattern to some of these characters which also seems to follow as he plays "Higgins" in "MY FAIR LADY." 

"With 'Billy' and 'Trevor,' you've got these fast talking kind of guys who think they've got a handle on everything - and 'Higgins' is the same way," GRUNERT says. "He ('Higgins') thinks he’s got it all figured out and all of these guys ('Billy,' 'Trevor' & 'Higgins') they all have the rug pulled right out from under them. Really, going all the way back to 'Music Man,' if you think of 'Harold Hill,' 'Harold' has the same type of pattern to him, as well. As I began exploring the 'Higgins' character, I have identified things I had noticed before in these other characters."

The story of "MY FAIR LADY" takes place in London in 1912

In the story, "Professor Henry Higgins" takes on the challenge of transforming a poor, uncultured cockney flower girl named "Eliza Doolittle" and pass her off at high society events as a "proper English lady."

On this latest tour, Anette Barrios-Torres plays “Eliza” and John Adkison plays “Colonel Pickering” who issues the challenge to "Higgins."

Reading from the description in the original 1956 Tams-Witmark script of the musical, the "Higgins" character is described as “British, upper class professional batchelor (TAMS spelling, not mine), world famous phonetics expert, teacher and author of ‘Higgins Universal Alphabet’”

While the age of the character of "Henry Higgins" in "MY FAIR LADY" is not stipulated, at first glance, one might look at GRUNERT and assume he might be playing a much younger role, perhaps even that of "Eliza's" handsome, infatuated young suitor, 'Freddy.' 

Was the decision to go younger for 'Higgins' made by director Bartlett Sher?

“Well, I don’t know if that is really true," GRUNERT says. "Because (actor) Leslie Howard was actually around the same age as I am when he played the role (in the 1938 film ‘Pygmalion.’*)." 

(*Editor’s Note: This would be a few years before Howard’s untimely death during World War II at just 50-years-old)

“I think most audiences identify 'Higgins,' though, from how Rex Harrison had played the role and how he would continue to play the part, even as he aged over the years."**

(**Editor’s Note: The last time Harrison would play the role of "Higgins" was at age 72, in a 1981 revival, cast opposite 27-year-old actresses Nancy Ringham and 34-year-old Cheryl Kennedy as "Eliza")

GRUNERT continues, discussing the approach taken by Sher on this latest revival.

“I think our director’s intent is to go back to the original ‘Pygmalion’ script and take on the challenge of making it unique compared to the other iterations that came before.” 

Had GRUNERT ever seen the musical before, either on stage or the iconic film? 

“Oh, I’ve seen the film 'MY FAIR LADY,' the movie ‘Pygmalion’ and even saw the show on stage once. But you kind of have to look at it with fresh eyes and approach it from a new perspective in this new revival,” GRUNERT says. 

“This script revolves more around 'Eliza’s' journey. This 'Eliza' is strong and powerful – she is much more than a simple flower girl living on the streets. She’s strong enough, again this being London, 1912, to be able to go into an English gentleman’s home and, all on her own, demand equal treatment." 

"How exciting is that? For someone, a simple flower girl living back in 1912, and here she is, wanting and demanding equality, taking on the class structure and hierarchy like that?”

(Photo: The CAST of the Lerner and Loewe musical, "MY FAIR LADY" coming to the Hanover Theatre in Worcester, MA. beginning February 16, 2024. Photo Courtesy of the tour website)

Given the character-defining portrayal by Rex Harrison, the role of "Higgins" has traditionally been approached as a non-singing role, with "Higgins" instead rhythmically speaking throughout his musical numbers “Why Can’t the English” and “I’m an Ordinary Man,” among others. 

Does that follow suit in this latest staging or has  GRUNERT (via director Sher) tried to add some more musicality to the role? 

“I consider myself a singer," GRUNERT says. "Here you have a character ('Higgins') who is book smart. He is a gentlemen, but he has a 'disability' when it comes to emotions. And (in the score) we see how, though his songs, how this swings against the moods of the other, more emotional ballads (in the musical)." 

"'Higgins' doesn’t seem to understand these feelings and yet, by the end, through his relationship with 'Eliza,' he has been changed," GRUNERT says, adding, "So. when you get to ‘I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face, you can see that he is trying to make that connection, which is his expression of emotions, vacillating between spoken and sung lines.”

GRUNERT and "Higgins" share a common skill when it comes to dialects, as well. Back to the description: "Higgins" is described as a “world famous phonetics expert” while, as mentioned, GRUNERT is an “experienced dialect coach, particularly with Standard British RP/Scottish/Irish/Estuary & Southern dialects.”  

Did that similarity factor into the casting decision? 

"(In the cast) we have ALL definitely been working with a dialect coach of our own as we have some performers who must play to several accents," GRUNERT points out. "So, every actor involved in the production has to have some level of that expertise." 

"In my own experience, being from Texas, with my own native Texas twang, I had to learn how to speak the original English properly. There is a line in ‘Pygmalion’ where 'Higgins' says, ‘She talks English almost as you talk French.” Meaning she speaks it like a foreign language. As I approach it from one dialect to another, its a similar journey, like I’m having that same journey that 'Eliza' experiences. If I go into a job interview locally, I might have my Texas twang. But, If I am trying out for a role, I would try and adapt to whatever accent the role calls for (Boston, Texas, London), whatever." 

GRUNERT also notes, "As we see in the show, there are also certain expectations made of a person’s class based upon the way they behave or the way they speak." 

"The chance to work on a golden age musical is very rare," GRUNERT says. "This production has been approached with great honesty, and our fabulous sets and costumes have all been done with such intense detail. I saw it when it was on Broadway and I remember feeling how it brought a whole new perspective to the show." 

"You hear some of the lines now, in 2024 and, as it has been staged, when these lines are spoken, some of our allegiances to some of these characters might shift from one moment to the next." 

GRUNERT refers to cast mates and the creative team involved on the tour as "just fantastic. The best." and elucidates on his character's relationship with Anette Barrios-Torres as “Eliza” and John Adkison as “Pickering.” 

"There is this great breakthrough moment in the form of the song, 'The Rain in Spain' where the three of them come together as a team, not just two men ('Higgins' and 'Pickering') trying to parade around 'Eliza.' It’s here that 'Higgins' literally begins to see 'Eliza' more so as an equal. It has just been wonderful bringing that relationship to life. And she (Anette) has this all signed up and sealed as 'Eliza.' You can feel the relationships growing from beginning to end. He doesn’t understand what is going on – he has no idea why they are arguing or how he hurts her at times – while the audience recognizes it instantly."

(Photo: JONATHAN GRUNERT working on set with director Bartlett Sher on a scene from the acclaimed Lerner and Loewe musical, "MY FAIR LADY" coming to the Hanover Theatre in Worcester, MA. beginning February 16, 2024. Photo credit: Richard Bowditch)

GRUNERT concludes by stating how he hopes Hanover Theatre audiences will have the same experience he had and what he felt when he first saw  "MY FAIR LADY."

"You know, different generations get to see this show and, by doing so, people of all ages get to create new memories," GRUNERT says. "(Beginning with 'Pygmalion') this is a story that has lasted over 100 years at this point. Everyone can connect to something in this show." 

"'MY FAIR LADY' also presents us with so many great songs – with some songs that have been played in high schools or at weddings - and now to be able to see all that live on stage with beautiful sets and costumes – it is just such a great experience." 

"To be able to see something this rare and delicate brought to life on stage, and that it can be enjoyed by everyone in the audience, well, I hope that experience is something that will last for the rest of their lives."

"MY FAIR LADY" will play at the Hanover Theatre in Worcester, MA. from February 16th through February 18th, 2024For Tickets and more information call # 877-571-SHOW (7469) or email info@thehanovertheatre.org


Approximately three hours with one intermission

Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) 




From Lincoln Center Theater that brought you "The King & I" and "South Pacific" comes “a sumptuous new production of the most perfect musical of all time” (Entertainment Weekly), Lerner & Loewe’s "MY FAIR LADY."  

Director Bartlett Sher’s glowing production is “thrilling, glorious and better than it ever was” (New York Times).  

“Every so often a revival comes along that reminds you how indispensable great theater can be” (NY1).

Boasting such classic songs as “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “The Rain in Spain,” “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” and “On the Street Where You Live,” "MY FAIR LADY" tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a young Cockney flower seller, and Henry Higgins, a linguistics professor who is determined to transform her into his idea of a “proper lady.”  

But who is really being transformed? 

Please contact the box office at 877-571-SHOW (7469) for more information.



Worcester Center for Performing Arts is a registered not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, which owns and operates The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts. All donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.


2 Southbridge Street

Worcester, MA. 01608

877-571-SHOW (7469)