This sumptuous production, featuring over thirty cast members on stage and a full orchestra, is the first major revival of Lerner & Loewe’s much-loved musical on tour for over fifteen years and a fantastic way to celebrate the theatre scene back in bloom.
Directed by Bartlett Sher (acclaimed for the recent Tony Award-winning productions of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I and South Pacific), this sublime production features Frederick Loewe’s ravishing score and a book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. My Fair Lady includes the classic songs I Could Have Danced All Night, Get Me to the Church on Time, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly, On the Street Where You Live, The Rain in Spain, and I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.
My Fair Lady makes a refreshing change from the current jukebox musicals that seem to be doing the rounds. There is something endearingly comforting about seeing this charming show – maybe because it was one of my Grandma’s favourite musicals – so much so that I was taken to see the film version at least five times when I was a youngster!
Palpable chemistry between the two leads
The familiar story is of Eliza Doolittle, a young Cockney flower seller and Henry Higgins, a linguistics professor who is determined to transform her into his idea of a “proper lady”. Fortunately, the chemistry between Charlotte Kennedy (Eliza Doolittle) and Michael D Xavier (Henry Higgins) is obvious and works fabulously in this new production. Both give commanding vocals to the many uplifting and spirited songs, Kennedy ably portraying Eliza’s transformation from shrill flower girl to refined Edwardian lady.
John Middleton is probably best known for his part in ITV’s Emmerdale as Ashley Thomas, though as Colonel Pickering he is a delight playing the role with authority and dignity. The competitive streak between himself and Higgins is at times comedic whilst retaining a keen dramatic edge.
An array of stars from stage and screen
Yorkshire-born Lesley Garrett is almost unrecognisable as housekeeper Mrs Pearce. The much-loved soprano rarely gets a chance to sing – when she does it’s along with part of the cast.
Tom Liggins as Freddy Eynsford-Hill is charming – he has a superb singing voice that is a delight to hear.
Adam Woodyatt has appeared in over 3,000 episodes of EastEnders so playing the part of Eliza’s father Alfred P. Doolittle, a Cockney dustman, is a natural fit for him. The scene where he and the cast perform Get Me to The Church on Time with a hint of Vaudeville and good old-time dancing is pure theatrical magic and one of the many highlights of this entertaining and loveable show.
Heather Jackson as Mrs Higgins has an air of finesse and superiority – her relationship with Eliza develops from one of resistance to one of understanding and respect. Relationships change too in the second half of the show as the tables appear to be turned between Henry and Eliza with the latter seemingly having the upper hand whilst Henry discovers that he has deep feelings for Eliza, though whether they do eventually get together as a couple is left open-ended.
When watching Higgins question his feelings towards Eliza as he marches up and down the stage is reminiscent of a comedically uptight John Cleese in one of the many amusing moments during the three-hour show. The length might seem long, but the show moves apace; there’s never a dull moment with the lavish costumes, great lighting and excellent performances from a superb cast.
Go and see it, I am sure you will not be disappointed – a wonderful production that even my late Grandma would agree is still loverly!
My Fair Lady, Alhambra Theatre, Bradford – runs until Sunday 2nd October 2022 www.bradford-theatres.co.uk Box Office: 01274 432000