My Fair Lady

Date 7th November 2019
Society CAOS Musical Theatre Company
Venue Park view Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Lee Brannigan
Musical Director Kirstie Swirles
Choreographer Lee Brannigan
Assistant Director Melanie King

Report

Author: Peter Oliver

Everyone knows the story of My Fair Lady: based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion written in 1912 and how it portrays the story of Eliza Doolittle a cockney flower girl who having met by chance Henry Higgins, an arrogant phonetic professor, who casually wagers that he could teach Eliza in six months to speak proper English and pass her off as a duchess at an Embassy Ball or even get her a place as a lady’s maid or a shop assistant. My Fair Lady is one of the most popular musicals of all time and has been since its first Broadway production in 1956 with hit London production and a popular film version and several revivals My Fair Lady has been called the perfect musical and CAOS was the perfect musical theatre company to put their own interpretation to this well known and loved production.

Under the Direction of Lee Brannigan who not only directed and choreographed the production but I was surprised to see him at the front of the stage with his baton conducting the orchestra: is there no ends to this man’s talent: well done Lee, I must also mention the choreography created by Lee with support from Scott Howes as dance captain the movement and dance routines were beautifully choreographed throughout the production and well delivered by the cast especially in the numbers “Wouldn’t It Be Lovely”, “Ascot Gavotte” and “Get Me To The Church On Time”. Supporting Lee was Melanie King as Assistant Director and between them they used all their skills and years of experience to deliver a first-class production. Kirstie Swirles had the role as Musical Director and with Chinami Smith as the rehearsal Pianist they certainly ensured that the eleven-piece band delivered the right notes to support the cast in some of the biggest musical numbers ever to be written for a musical extravaganza. Special mention must go to the Jean Fox as stage manager who managed the stage crew and ensured that every scene change was carried out with military profession never detracting or holding up the flow of the production. Costumes were excellent thanks to Alan Graham Costumes and certainly added to the overall ambiance of the show especially in the Gavotte scene which looked fantastic. The set from A1 Stage looked very authentic from an audience perspective especially Professor Higgins Study and the clever use of individual props certainly made a difference. Sound and lighting was well designed thanks to Hi Lights Theatre Service and finally special mention to their publicity, marketing and photography team especially Graeme Smith for the programme and poster design it was beautifully illustrated and easy to read. 

My Fair Lady is a very long show and most company’s make the decision to cut some scenes especially the ballroom scene but CAOS decided to run the show in its full entirety and I was surprised to see how quick the time went which showed how well the Company presented the show. Bringing the production to life were a principal cast and ensemble who all delivered a first-class performance and from the opening number it was evident that the audience were in for a treat. Leading this slick ensemble was an impressively talented principal line up and from the second Claire Garbutt walked on the stage as leading lady Eliza Doolittle she owned it: whilst only small in stature Claire certainly knows how to make a bid impression:  I have known Claire for a number of years and have even had the opportunity to share the stage with her in a number of productions: her commitment, acting and vocal ability always seems to amaze me in a very positive way, and tonight was no different: she performed Eliza Doolittle with absolute confidence showing all the characteristics that were required to make this character come to life; and I loved how she interacted with the other characters especially Professor Higgins and her transformation from a gritty flower girl to well a turned out Duchess was beautifully portrayed, vocally Claire delivered her musical numbers beautifully which made all of Eliza’s musical numbers a joy to listen to, but I especially liked her cockney numbers “ Wouldn’t Be Lovely” and  “Just You Wait”  and her transformation  numbers “I Could Have Danced All Night”  and her Duet with Higgins “Without You” were all exceptionally delivered and I loved the number “The Rain In Spain” with Higgins and Pickering which was well polished and entertaining. Playing opposite Claire was Steven Berry as Professor Henry Higgins, and what a flawless performance this man delivered: faultless dialogue and great stage presence he delivered all the varying characteristic traits of Professor Higgins depicting the humour as well as the more vulnerability side which concluded in the blossoming relationship between him and Eliza. Vocally I loved his musical numbers especially “I’m An Ordinary Man” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face” which were both confidently delivered and showed the contrasting characteristics as he softened throughout the performance. Completing the three central characters was Bill Collins as Colonel Pickering, Bill delivered a confident performance he showed his fun side of his character and yet developed a soft spot for Eliza which was lovely to watch, great interaction with the other characters and a confident solid performance. Playing Eliza’s worldly wise father: Alfred P Doolittle was Martin Anderson who delivered a convincing portray as the drunken cockney: Martin delivered his character with humour, confidence and lots of energy and delivered his audience pleasing musical numbers “With A Little Bit Of Luck” and “Get Me To the Church On Time” well supported by his drinking companions Jess Gibson as Jamie and Sarah Hamblett as Harriet. Katie Howes delivered an excellent and stylish performance as Mrs Higgins, this part was made for Katie her accent and grace would not be out of place in any royal garden party and I thought the scene in the garden was delivered with perfection. Playing the charming Freddy Eynsford-Hill was Scott Howes who delivered a confident performance as the smitten gentleman who tried to pursue his courtship with Eliza: lovely performance and good vocal performance in his beautiful number “On The Street Where You Live”. Playing the role of Mrs Enysford-Hill was Sheila Bradley whilst only a small part Sheila delivered this character with elegance. Playing the part of Professor Higgins housekeeper Mrs Pearce was Kirstie Swirles her expressions and mannerisms were perfect for the role and I loved the dialogue between her character and Higgins as she challenged him over his integrity over Eliza’s position in the house, lovely performance and great stage presence and I loved the musical number “I Could Have Danced All Night” performed with Eliza and the maids.

Congratulation to those who were cast in cameo and ensemble roles all of whom were committed to their individual character and the energy in the individual scenes and musical numbers were infectious well done to Steve Laws as Professor Zoltan Karpathy, Sonya Charters as Mrs Hopkins, Phil Mezzo as Lord Boxington, Joanne Whitfield as Lady Boxington, Danny McCann as the Bartender and finally Higgins house maids who’s vocals and harmonies in their musical number “The Servants Chorus” was beautifully delivered thanks to Fiona Routledge, Fiona Havercroft, Glenis Smith, Philippa Smith, Julie Slater, Anne Holt, Eve Swirles and Sophie Beeston.

Finally I would like to thank the front of house staff for making me feel welcome and congratulate everyone who was involved in making CAOS’s production of My Fair Lady such a success and hope to see you all in your 2020 production of Sister Act.