This gentle but classy production has plenty to offer those looking to experience Lerner and Loewe’s musical live.
It is hard to believe that one of my very first experiences of seeing a show in the West End was a production of My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and I was dazzled by Lerner and Loewe’s beautiful music and lyrics that made an instant impact on me. This is why I was so thrilled to hear that Bartlett Sher’s production was heading to London. Now that I have seen it – was I disappointed? Perhaps there are a couple of elements that could have been improved on – but for the most part I was delighted by this classy production.
Based on George Bernard Shaw’s classic play Pygmalion, My Fair Lady follows the story of Eliza and her transformation from flower girl to lady – with the help of somewhat unorthodox methods of Professor Higgins. While some might find the story and its attitude slightly outdated, for me this is a story simply about somebody who is looking to improve her quality of life to give herself a better future – which is something that many of us will aspire to.
While it is a long show, Bartlett Sher’s production embraces the high quality of the music and lyrics to create an absorbing experience for all. In particular the way in which the sequences for ‘The Servant’s Chorus’ and The Embassy Waltz are framed through simple but effective ways that are exquisite to watch. With so many different locations dotted throughout – it is not easy to make the transition between scenes easy – but here it looks effortless. Perhaps in terms of Michael Yeargan’s set design, a lot more of the space could have been made of – particularly for the scenes at Ascot, although I did appreciate the timing as the horses were coming in front of the cast – it felt as though some of the comedy of Eliza shouting out is lost. Yet, it is still possible to appreciate the attention to Henry Higgins’s home and the use of revolve for those scenes is impressive – as is Catherine Zuber’s costume designs that capture all the characters and the era perfectly.
If you are in any doubt to come along and see this production, then I can highly recommend that you come along to hear the way in which The English National Opera Orchestra bring the score to life in such a glorious way. With every song there is a glorious richness to the performance – that enhances the experience. Highlight moments include include the Overture, ‘Ascot Gavotte’ and ‘Wouldn’t it Be Loverly’ among many others.
Perhaps some of the more comical moments could have been highlighted more, this is for the most part a gentle but still entertaining production that makes the most of the cast it has in place. At the centre of it all is a suitably feisty Amara Okereke as Eliza – who gets the balance between vulnerability and spiritedness of the character just right, while delivering nicely delicate vocals that cope exceedingly well considering with the incredible challenges of songs such as ‘Just You Wait’ and ‘Wouldn’t it Be Loverly’. Harry Hadden- Paton has a boyish charm about him as Professor Higgins – despite his character’s blatant disregard of Eliza’s emotions and disdain of women. You shouldn’t like him as a character but his natural charisma through ‘A Hymn to Him’ and ‘I’m an Ordinary Man’ makes you smile at his foolish attitude – it is a graceful performance.
Elsewhere, Malcolm Sinclair as Colonel Pickering is strong support as a character who tries to make Higgins see sense, while offering reassurance to Eliza- he is a strong link between the two central characters. Stephen K Amos (of course) has a great comic timing with his two songs but could be a little bit bolder in between to really make the most of his lines.
While there are a few little flaws with the production (which given the nature of the story perhaps is not a bad thing as a whole), this is still a production that has much to offer those who are looking for a show to be charmed by.
By Emma Clarendon
My Fair Lady will run at the London Coliseum until the 27th August. To book tickets click here or visit: From the Box Office, Last Minute.com, London Theatre Direct, Theatre Tickets Direct or Love Theatre.com.