One way to really appreciate what a flawless musical “My Fair Lady” is, is to experience the ultra-rarely performed imitation of it called “Darling of the Day.” When “Darling” opened on Broadway in 1968, veteran composer Jule Styne (“Gypsy, ” “Funny Girl”) and lyricist E. Y. Harburg (“Wizard of Oz,” “Finian’s Rainbow”) wrote a wonderfully old-fashioned, Lerner & Loewe-influenced score for a rapidly changing Great White Way that by then was undergoing nightly nude love-ins in the rock musical “Hair.” Not helping matters was having hopelessly miscast screen boogeyman Vincent Price attempt a Rex Harrison imitation in the leading role (horror fans have made the long out-of-print cast album a hot eBay commodity) alongside Patricia Routledge’s shameless imitation of Julie Andrews. The show ran a mere month before being mercifully pulled, and remained buried until an off-Broadway New York reading a few years ago and a concert performance last year. Celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, Light Opera Works is presenting what it claims is the first “fully staged” version in celebration, although the sets and staging are barely beyond the basic level of a staged reading. Despite a hopelessly silly plot and an endlessly chatty libretto that even with attempted trims and updates has the audience able to mouth what the characters will say long before they actually figure it out, there is no denying that the score is a lost musical gem that is well worth hearing. In the hands of strong performers such as Roger Mueller and Mary Earnster, this “Darling” is finally getting its “Day.” (Dennis Polkow).
Through Nov. 6, McGaw YMCA Child Care Center, 1420 Maple, Evanston, (847)869-6300.