The production, which hits the Neshaminy High School stage March 29, stars Langhorne’s Ken Marblestone as Professor Henry Higgins and Trevose’s Joe Harris as Harry
By Samantha Bambino
By day, Lower Southampton’s Ken Marblestone is a respected, client-oriented attorney at the Center City, Philadelphia-based law firm, MandMarblestone Group. But once the professional work day is over, Marblestone transforms into an alter ego of sorts, trading his desk for a stage and unleashing impressive dance and vocal chops.
For several weeks, rehearsals have been underway for Neshaminy Valley Music Theatre’s 63rd annual production, My Fair Lady, which is based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and premieres at Neshaminy High School’s Theodore Kloos Auditorium on March 29.
In the Tony Award-winning show, which has been hailed as “the perfect musical,” Marblestone portrays Henry Higgins, a linguistics professor who is determined to turn Cockney flower seller Eliza Doolittle, played by Willow Grove’s Tressa McCallister, into his idea of a “proper lady.”
Ahead of opening night, The Times caught up with Marblestone, who shared details on his nearly 20-year community theater background, and what it’s like to take on his most challenging role to date.
Marblestone first got involved with NVMT in 2000 when the nonprofit presented Kiss Me Kate, though this was by no means his introduction to acting.
“I had done theater in my youth, when I was in high school, and then sort of didn’t do it again for a long time,” he said. “And then my synagogue started putting on musicals and I participated in those.”
However, after two consecutive years of hosting a production, the synagogue decided to take a break.
“My feeling was, OK you can skip a year. I’m not skipping a year,” Marblestone said.
After searching the area for new opportunities, he discovered NVMT, and has since participated in 16 of its musicals, including The Music Man, for which he won Outstanding Actor in a Musical in 2016 by the International Music and Entertainment Awards.
“It was certainly a surprise, but a very pleasant surprise,” Marblestone said. “My wife and I flew down to Nashville for the awards ceremony, and I was probably the most surprised person in the audience. But it was very gratifying. I’m very proud of it.”
Now, Marblestone is in the midst of what’s arguably his biggest theatrical undertaking yet.
“Not only is there a tremendous amount of dialogue to learn, it’s the lyrics and music for six songs, a little dancing, adding an upper-class British accent, and trying to create a character who, at times, is unlikable and says some horrible things, without losing the support of the audience,” Marblestone said. “He’s not only a male chauvinist, but he looks down on the lower class. So his treatment of Eliza Doolittle, this flower girl who is not only a woman but a lower class woman, is by modern-day standards, pretty unforgivable. And to keep him somewhat sympathetic as far as the audience is concerned is a challenge.”
Still, Marblestone is so far having a blast embracing his inner Higgins, and said My Fair Lady is a can’t-miss.
“It is almost a perfect musical,” he said. “The music and lyrics are wonderful, the characters are intriguing. I know a lot of people are familiar with the show, but if you’re not, it’s really a great theatrical experience. Even if you are, it’s a great theatrical experience.”
Aside from the director and musical director, all cast and crew members of NVMT are unpaid volunteers, most of whom work full-time jobs in non-performance fields. For Marblestone, the hectic schedule is worth it.
“I have a very understanding wife, who actually does the makeup for the show,” he said. “It really is an escape from the normal, everyday work and I just love it. It energizes me.”
My Fair Lady is directed and choreographed by Barrymore Award-nominated Stephen Casey, with the score boasting classics like “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “The Rain in Spain,” “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” and “On the Street Where You Live.” Joe Sariego serves as music director for the production.
Additional cast members include Ben Deschner of Newtown as Freddie Eynsford-Hill, Linda Schwandt of Fairless Hills as Mrs. Higgins, Rita Enders of Langhorne as Mrs. Pearce, and Joe Harris of Trevose as Harry.
Proceeds from My Fair Lady will be put toward scholarships for graduating seniors of the Neshaminy School District who plan to continue their studies in the fine or performing arts in college. Since its founding in 1956, the nonprofit theater group has awarded more than $150,000 in scholarships. ••
If you go…
Neshaminy Valley Music Theatre’s My Fair Lady will take place at Neshaminy High School’s Theodore Kloos Auditorium, 2001 Old Lincoln Highway in Langhorne. Showtimes are Friday, March 29 and April 5, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 30 and April 6, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 31, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $22 general admission, $20 for seniors and $12 for youth 14 years and under when purchased in advance, and an additional $2 when purchased at the door. Cost is $18 for groups of 15 or more (arranged in advance). With NVMT’s flex-ticket policy, any ticket purchased is good for any seat for any show date and time. For information, visit NVMT.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 267–733–8876.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com