My Fair Lady
10th April 2019
Tyne Theatre & Opera House
Type of Production
Author: Michael L Avery
“My Fair Lady” seems a little at odds with current attitudes to sexual equality, although I suspect George Bernard Shaw’s intention, in the original “Pygmalion”, was to point out those then-current flaws in the relationship between the sexes. Be that as it may, this is a musical comedy not a political treatise - full of memorable songs and music from Lerner and Loewe.
West End present their 2019 production in appropriate surroundings, the Tyne Theatre & Opera House which first opened in 1867, adding a late Edwardian frisson to the proceedings. Costumes throughout are attractive and generally in keeping with the period and the scenery takes us back to the early 20th century. Sound and lighting were unobtrusive, not interfering with or distracting from the action which, to me, is a good thing.
The show is directed and choreographed by Sandra Laidler who has been responsible for several impressive shows for West End. Sandra knows how to keep the action moving, even during scenes in the Higgins household. All the principals seem to clearly understand who they are. Choreography is good, particularly during The Ascot Gavotte. It’s an iconic scene and, on this occasion, they dare to be a little different, whilst maintaining an authentic style. Christopher Watson was musical director and his 12 piece orchestra acquitted themselves well, helping keep the pace moving.
Eliza is well played by Lucy Sutton. It is really two parts, the cockney sparrow and the young lady. Lucy plays both well and energetically. She sings well and has good stage presence; she is very funny when demonstrating “the new her” after the races. Higgins is Jonathan Cash. Jonathan acts any part he takes on with complete authority, here showing the required good diction and articulation, expressing well the confusion of a man normally completely self-possessed, who finds himself unexpectedly in thrall to an attractive woman. Pickering is David Rawlings who makes a good job of his bumbling character. Whether sung or spoken, his diction is clear throughout and he joins in the set pieces with some energy, clearly showing a sympathy for Eliza that Higgins wouldn’t understand. Andrew Fearon is a larger than life Doolittle, exhibiting energy, humour and enthusiasm in his two big numbers. Freddy is played by Kevin Rhodes. On the Street Where You Live is an iconic song and not an easy one to sing, on a rather large, empty stage. I wasn’t quite convinced this Freddy was totally smitten by Eliza. Mrs Pearce, Higgins’ housekeeper, a small but important part is performed very well by Christine Lewin. The redoubtable Mrs Higgins is played by Joan Elton whose despair over her son is palpable – and funny.
There are another 24 named parts plus 13 more “members of the company” who deserve mention for filling all those small roles and places needed to fully populate a large production like this. What they do onstage does not go un-noticed. Incidentally, I still think Eliza is far too good for him!!