USER (22Nov05): My Fair Lady by Lerner & Loewe
Birmingham Hippodrome, Monday 21 November 2005
My Fair Lady is a musical classic with so many memorable songs and a charming story of rags to riches. This Cameron Mackintosh and National Theatre production is on a grand scale with a cast of over 35 on stage and a full 15-piece orchestra to boot. Adapted from Bernard Shaw’s play and Gabriel Pascal’s motion picture “Pygmalion” this is a world class touring musical.
Designer Anthony Ward has created a series of wonderful and sumptuous sets that compliment both the story and the music but I found them rather sombre particularly Professor Higgins library and the lighting did not make the most of the sets. After the nighttime scene in Covent Garden I expected brightness but it all appeared too subdued. In addition the spot lighting was all over the place at last nights performance.
Matthew Bourne’s choreography and musical staging is perfect providing visually stunning dance routines. The highlight being the ‘Ascot Gavotte’ which was a visual treat and displayed the dancers at their very best. The costumes were superb.
Christopher Cazenove appears to be a commanding Professor Higgins a difficult role to step into because most people associate it with Rex Harrison. His vocals are however inconsistent and his ‘Why can’t the English?’ was particularly shaky although he quickly settled down giving a much better reading of ‘I’m an Ordinary Man’.
Amy Nuttall that well known TV face from Emmerdale looked the part and gave a spirited performance but once again her vocals were not consistent and overall it was not the best Eliza that I have seen. She did however look stunning in the ball gown and was at her best in the amusing scenes.
Entertainer Russ Abbot gave of his best to the role of Alfred P Doolittle, following in the footsteps of Stanley Holloway and raising the roof with both of his numbers ‘With a Little Bit of Luck’ and ‘Get Me to the Church on Time’
The ever-stylish Honor Blackman in a cameo role as Mrs Higgins scored highly with the audience and looked every bit the part. Stephen Moore is a likeable Colonel Pickering sparring well with Christopher Cazenove. Stephen Carlile was Freddy Eynsford-Hill and made for the ideal romantic lead to Amy Nuttall’s Eliza.
I was disappointed there was no full overture as this musical deserves that marvellous build up prior to the curtain rising. It would also have been wonderful to hear such a large orchestra playing, as this is a rarity in touring productions.
On a comfort note if the cold weather continues I’d wrap up warm because it was ‘bloomin’ freezing at the back of the dress circle!
The show continues until Saturday 3 December.