‘My Fair Lady’ replacement shines at Arena Stage in an unforgettable evening

Wonderful, magical theater story.

It was looking awfully bleak for the Saturday evening performance of “My Fair Lady” when Artistic Director Molly Smith walked onstage surrounded by her cast to deliver some grim news.

She informed the nearly full house that flu had laid low several cast members, including Manna Nichols, who played the lead role of Eliza Doolittle.

To have an understudy step in is usually a disappointment for an audience that arrives expecting to see the stars. In this case, even Nichols’s replacement, Erin Driscoll, was absent: She had lost her voice.

Now things got interesting. Smith promised the crowd it was in for something rare, something it would heartily embrace. Although the role of Eliza Doolittle is a demanding one, a member of the ensemble, Hannah Willman, was prepared to take it on with script in hand — after just a couple of hours of rehearsal. Suddenly the audience felt treated to a giant gulp of what it meant to witness live theater. —The Washington Post.