My Fair Lady

Date 25th October 2019
Society St Pauls Musical Theatre Company
Venue The Floral Pavilion
Type of Production Musical
Director Brenda Davies
Musical Director Sian James
Choreographer Ali Bentley-Jones
Producer Brenda Davies

Report

Author: Joanne Rymer

My Fair Lady

New Brighton Floral Pavilion

25/10/19

St Pauls Operatic Society always puts on a very high standard of production and this is no exception. Lerner and Loewe’s adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion is a contender for many people’s favourite musical. The story of phonetics professor Henry Higgins and his attempt to turn Covent Garden flower seller Eliza Doolittle into a ‘lady’ is full of memorable songs and characters.

This is not always an advantage as staging a musical that has a well-known film (that remains the ideal version for many) can backfire; portrayals from the movie come into your head however hard you may try to ignore them.

The show revolves around some bold and interesting characters of which the cast members showed great joy portraying on stage. David Oliver was almost born to play the controlling yet charming role of Professor Henry Higgins. He was capable of communicating the degrading treatment of Eliza Doolittle with the subtle affection required for the complex role, displaying a flawless vocal interpretation, perfecting the standard of speech and language the narrative is built around. His song "I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face" was so sensitively delivered, a show highlight. An excellent performance.

John Phipps as Colonel Pickering gives a great performance, a carefully pitched old buffer, whose comedic elements are well judged. The part pretty much calls for the actor to observe from the sides most of the time but he is never boring to watch. A fine performance.

Eliza, (Rebecca Hulse) which is the only real female principal character in the show. Here we had an attractively feisty Eliza, but with the requisite pathos in the final scenes of the production against an irascible, self-obsessed Higgins who really wasn't interested in anyone but himself. Rebecca has a beautiful singing voice, she certainly attacks the role. ‘Just You Wait’ was a triumph as was ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’.  I enjoyed watching her transform and thought she plays “posh” Eliza very well. . It’s a huge part only really matched by Higgins. Great performance. Well Done Rebecca.

The evening I attended (Thursday 25th) the technical side of the production i.e. sound and lighting was not going as well as it may have done. Looking at the programme the technical support was provided by The Floral Pavilion and was not the standard expected from a professional theatre.

Euan Parkes, as Eliza’s suitor Freddy, never quite carries off the lovelorn swain, but his portrayal is nevertheless a charming one. ‘On the Streets Where You Live’ was sung beautifuuly. Helga Whitely gives his mother a realistic edge. I also enjoyed Callum Makin’s appearance as Zoltan Karpathy, the snobbish Hungarian whom we meet at the Transylvanian Embassy Ball. Callum gave us an amusingly physical performance of this comic character.

Jane Bird as Mrs Higgins, Henry’s mother, who champions Eliza from the start gave a wonderful performance. There’s not much to get your teeth into with the role, however there were some beautifully delivered comic put-downs of Higgins. Fine performance here.

 Also a mention for Paula Hunter (Mrs Pearce) who gave a heart-warming performance as Higgin’s hardworking housekeeper.

Special mention must be made to Barry Prescott (Alfred Doolittle) who was one of the highlights of the show for me. More memorably he came close to stealing the show with his performance of ‘Get Me to the Church on Time’. In fairness, choreographer Ali Bentley-Jones deserves her share of the credit for this, and other, numbers in the show. Nevertheless, Prescott brought an infectious energy to this number and indeed to his role throughout. Fine performance.

Fine performances too from his drinking pals Harry (Brian Dodd), Jamie (Bill Brown)

In tonight’s performance Julie Whitehead, Carole Pumford and Lorraine McKinley had a mammoth job to transform the ensemble of cockney street sellers and drunks into civilised royalty with excellent attention to detail and the results were very impressive

The Chorus’s street costumes look great onstage - it’s tempting to have everyone in browns, greys and whites as they are meant to be so poor, but all the costumes have just the right amount of colour within them. The Ascot costumes are, as is tradition, black and white and are beautiful.

I'd forgotten just how many good tunes there are in My Fair Lady, so many of which have become standards. Musical director Sian James is to be congratulated on drawing out a top-notch vocal performance from not only the principals but the chorus too

The set design is noteworthy too, and larger than life paintings of scenes form stunning backdrops to the action.

The chorus should also be congratulated, looking around, I could see each little group have their own story going on which is always important. Their harmonies were good and they all looked to be having really great fun.

Overall, the performance was a credit to this well-loved musical and seemed to be a true team effort which is what amateur theatre is all about. An encouraging display of local theatre and talent.

 

Joanne Rymer

NODA

29/10/19