Review - My Fair Lady 60th anniversary production: joy at every step.
Anna O’Byrne (Eliza) and Charles Edwards (Higgins).
Alfred Doolittle (Reg Livermore) enjoys his pre-nuptial celebrations.
My Fair Lady
Book and lyrics Alan Jay Lerner
Music by Frederick Loewe
Directed by Julie Andrews
Choreography by Christopher Gattelli
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Wow, what a night; My Fair Lady was not just fair she was fabulous, with joy at every step of the way through the fast flowing one hour 45 minutes of the opening act with its poignant journey from Covent Garden to the Embassy Ball, and then on to the simple but effective final scene. The audience cheered and thunderously applauded scene after scene and song after song. Even the sets got a clap!
Mind you they deserved it. The recreation of the original production was stunning; every set was a work of art in itself, a painting to be studied. The costumes too were just beautiful and meticulously created. It was wall to wall glamour, beauty, and excitement.
The Lyric was abuzz before the orchestra began the overture: Julie Andrews was to be in the audience, and the place erupted as she took her seat and phone cameras were popping all over the auditorium.
I always consider this the last of the great musicals, the ones where every tune was a hit and everyone knows the lyrics. It is hard to believe that the show is 60 years old. It till has verve, great roles and fantastic music.
The casting was impeccable with experienced and talented Englishman Charles Edwards, known here for TV series Downton Abbey, as Professor Higgins and Aussie Anna O’Byrne as Eliza. I loved her transition from gutter rat to princess. Her accent was cleverly never aristocratically perfect and her lapses into cockney were brilliant.
The interaction between these two actors was so satisfying to watch as they slowly slipped into each other’s affections. It was an intricately woven pattern. Julie Andrews’ direction was very strong here.
Reg Livermore successfully put his own spin on the “undeserving’ Alfred P Doolittle to win the hearts of the audience – and his song interpretation was excellent too. Then we had Robyn Nevin’s domineering Mrs Higgins and Tony Llewellyn-Jones’s very gentlemanly interpretation of Colonel Pickering.
Mark Vincent’s Freddy Eynsford-Hill was a little less soppy than I’ve seen before and his voice was very powerful as he sang On the Street Where You Live. Deidre Rubenstein was suitably bossy as housekeeper Mrs Pearce while Glen Hogstrom was nicely sleazy as Zoltan Karparthy the Hungarian phonetics expert.
On top of that was a splendid ensemble of singers and dancers that was fully charged with talent and energy – and this was seen at its rowdy best with Get Me to the Church on Time. That was a real show-stopper. The opening scene with the moodily lit Covent Garden Market and Eliza’s sentimental Wouldn’t it be Loverly was followed by the hilarious and raucous arrangement of Alfred Doolittle’s With a Little Bit of Luck.
Charles Edwards mastered the “songspeak” created by Rex Harrison with Why Can’t a Woman be More Like a Man, I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face and Never Let a Woman in Your life.
Anna O’Byrne was a perfect Eliza and she shone with the vengeful Just You Wait, the heartfelt I Could Have Danced All Night and was terrific with the duet with Freddy in Show Me.
I could rant on for pages about highlights, but it is best said simply: this is the best My Fair Lady you are ever likely to see. If you go to the theatre just once a year, make this one your pilgrimage I doubt you will get better value.
Return Sydney season at the Capitol theatre starts on Thursday August 24 and new tickets on sale at www.myfairladymusical.com.au