My Fair Lady

Date 23rd March 2018
Society Alnwick Stage Musical Society
Venue Playhouse Alnwick
Type of Production Musical
Director Kathryn Curry
Musical Director Peter Brown
Choreographer Kathryn Curry

Report

Author: Michael Avery

Based upon Shaw’s Pygmalion, My Fair Lady has become an iconic musical.  With music by Frederick Loewe and book/lyrics by Alan J Lerner, the show’s 1956 New York production was a critical and popular success, followed by a hit London production (1958) and a popular film (1964).  Set in Covent Garden and Wimpole Street during 1912, it follows the transformation of Eliza Doolittle, from common to posh, under the tuition of Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering.  This is a big production in a small theatre familiar, to me as a cinema frequented between 1961/63 when I attended school in Alnwick.  The sets were quite simple, considerably reliant upon large cloths swiftly and effectively drawn across stage.  Costumes are elegant, where appropriate, and effective when representing the less salubrious side of life.  Props and furnishings worked well, being efficiently placed and replaced on stage.

Leonie Dial was a luminous Eliza, believable as both flower girl and elegant lady.  She gives off a wonderfully warm stage presence, clearly relishing the highs and lows of her character.  She performed her musical numbers charmingly.  Anthony Stoker as Higgins exhibits the required blend of pompous authority and scant understanding of anyone outside his social class, whilst still exhibiting confusion and vulnerability. He performs those familiar “non-singing” numbers perfectly.  Stuart Archer is a benevolent if, on occasion, slightly befuddled Pickering.  His two telephone calls were amusing and his obvious kindness towards Eliza contrasted well with Higgins.
 
Mark Stenton was Eliza’s father Alfred, an ageing Jack-the-Lad with a bravado which makes his ultimate fate, finding himself unwittingly elevated to the middle classes, all the more amusing.  With two cracking Cock-er-ny showstoppers to perform he is able to make a grand impression on the audience.  James Grieve, plays the lovelorn Freddy Eynsford-Hill with puppy-like devotion, sadly struggles a little with his big number but the audience remain sympathetic, aware that he’s never going to get the girl.

Other members of the cast deserve a mention – Susannah Clapcott as Mrs Pearce, Higgins’ housekeeper and Eliza’s protector; Arlene Cadman as Higgins’ long-suffering mother watching amusedly the effect Eliza has upon her clueless son; Sally Black as a genteel Mrs Eynsford-Hill; and everyone else who brought to life the servants, staff and other characters (Norman Luke is a wonderfully bewhiskered Zoltan) who people the show.

A high quality performance throughout, thoroughly appreciated by the audience, given by a hard working company under a clearly talented production team.  I wish that, just one time, Eliza could tell him where to put those slippers!