My Fair Lady

Date 6th October 2018
Society Alcester Musical Theatre Company
Venue The Palace Theatre, Redditch
Type of Production Musical
Director Bev Hatton
Assistant Director Julie Sterenberg
Musical Director Phil Radden
Choreographer Naomi Barlow

Report

Author: Andy Brown

One of the most popular musicals of all time was brought to the stage by Alcester Musical Theatre Company. This show was last performed by the company in 1993, so after a gap of twenty-five years would the show still be a success? Yes it was!

The musical My Fair Lady is based on Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, it opened on Broadway in 1956 and became the longest running show at that time. This was followed by a successful run on the West End in 1956 and a revival in 2001. 

From the opening onwards, it was evident we were in for a treat. During the overture we saw small groups of people come to life in Covent Garden. This was well set and well lit.

The show simply goes from one famous musical number to the next and we all know of many actors who have played the leading roles. The interpretation by Bev Hatton and her production team was in keeping with our previous knowledge of the show but was not necessarily a copy which was pleasing.

Millie Coles as Eliza Doolittle was a delight to watch and hear, both as the cockney flower girl with her ‘Aaaooowwww’ and songs such as ‘Wouldn’t it be Loverly’ and ‘Just you Wait’ to the refined young lady with ‘The Rain in Spain’ and ‘I Could have Danced all Night’. Her acting including facial expressions was equally impressive.

Millie was supported by an excellent Henry Higgins played by Karl Willis and equally excellent Colonel Pickering played by Jeff Gill. Willis was believable throughout – one wonders how some of his popular lines and songs would be received these days such as when asking Why can’t a women be like a man? However, his portrayal was very good indeed. 

Gill played the part with the dry humour required such as when ringing Whitehall to speak with his old friend. He worked well with Willis and Millie and the rapport between the three of them was notable and evident. 

The casting of John Baker as Alfred. P. Doolittle was without question good as he was totally correct in character. The energy during, ‘Get Me to the Church on Time’ was tiring just to watch along with his friend Harry - Hugh Duck and Jamie - Dave Hatton. Well done to the three of you!

Finally, the rather silly snob, Freddy Eynsford–Hill was played by Jamie Glenn who had a pleasing voice when singing  ‘On the Street Where You Live’.

Cameo roles were played by Ruth Hargreaves as housekeeper Mrs Pearce executing her duties well, Carole Corden as Mrs Higgins finding her son frustrating and Malcolm Steward as Prof. Zoltan Karpathy the former student.

The chorus worked well together with good singing and dancing. The Ascot Gavotte should be a highlight of the show and again the audience were not to be disappointed. Although rather cramped for space the costumes provided the right atmosphere. I was however, slightly puzzled as to why Mrs Higgins was the only female cast member not to have the obligatory black and white costume for this. The scene contains one of the most well-known lines in musical theatre and Millie delivered her encouragement for Dover to move somewhat faster with gusto.

The set was very clever in design. Congratulations to the production team for this. We saw a back wall comprising of the exterior of Higgin’s house (also used as interior but worked), the library (covered when not in use) a stair case used throughout and housing frontage. Furniture changes were effective and slick, and props were effective such as the gramophone in the library.

The show is very long however the time whizzed by and it was surprising to see just how much time had passed especially during the first act. This showed how well the company presented the show.  

The band were well balanced under the leadership of Phil Radden enabling the cast to be heard throughout the show.

Once again congratulations need to be given to director Bev Hatton and her assistant Julie Sterenberg as well as Phil Radden, Naomi Barlow and all involved.

So where next for this society? Well I for one now look forward to seeing Made in Dagenham in October 2019.