‘All I want is a room somewhere, far away from the cold night air, with an enormous chair, Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly!’
With this tune playing in my head, my own Henry Higgins and I frocked up in our finest to attend the black tie Gala Premiere of ‘My Fair Lady’ which is now showing at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC. I was brought up watching musicals and this story was a favourite. In a way it has mirrored things that have happened in my life.
Julie Andrews is also one of my icons and Mum always tells the story of the two year old me going along to watch her movie, ‘Mary Poppins’ and singing along to all of the songs at the top of my voice. So, it was a pinch me moment last night when I saw Julie Andrews being ushered to her seat.
One of the production crew said, “Julie has been a part of everything. She was here for the auditions, rehearsals and wanted this production to be the best it could possibly be.”
It certainly was the most beautiful, polished and vibrant performance that I have ever seen, not only in Brisbane, but anywhere in the world.
This 60th Anniversary production faithfully recreates the story of Eliza Doolittle, a simple flower girl from a humble background who meets linguist Henry Higgins. He and his friend Colonel Pickering wager a bet to see if Higgins can turn Eliza into a princess just by correcting her speech and giving her the accoutrements of a lady. He succeeds in the most spectacular and often hilarious way.
Julie Andrews played the role of Eliza sixty years ago, when it premiered on Broadway. She was a fresh- faced 22 year old at the time. Today Julie is directing ‘My Fair Lady’ and has said, “This production is faithful to the original in almost every respect. The plans for the sets were in the hands of Rosaria Sinisi (designer Oliver Smith’s assistant) so with her help we were able to recreate them. Cecil Beaton’s last assistant, John David Ridge, has recreated the costumes as faithfully as possible from the original sketches. My job has been to honour the piece and show a new generation how lovely it is.”
Casting was just right and the comedic timing of the lines was a joy to watch. Henry Higgins was played by Charles Edwards, who I had last seen in London owning the stage as Richard Hannay in the Tony Award-winning production of ‘ The 39 Steps’. You might also remember him as the elusive Michael Gregson in ‘Downton Abbey’. He played the role of Professor Higgins to perfection.
Eliza Doolittle was played by the lovely Anna O’Byrne who is best known for her work in London’s West End. Her debut role was as Christine in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’. Anna’s singing voice will give you goosebumps. She is the perfect Eliza and I had to hold back my tears several times, such was the beauty of her performance.
Reg Livermore relished his role as dustman, Alfred P. Doolittle,and was certainly an audience favourite and it was a thrill for me to see the First Lady of Australian Theatre, Robin Nevin playing the role of Mrs Higgins. Her distinctive voice was just right for this role and she owned the stage whenever she appeared.
The whole ensemble cast and their singing and dancing was an absolute joy to watch. You can tell that this musical is a labour of love for everyone involved.
‘My Fair Lady’ was beautiful from start to finish. The sets came alive and I sometimes forgot that I was in the theatre and felt like I was a part of a movie. The costumes had me mesmerised and were a part of the story, particularly in scenes like the Ascot Gavotte where everyone is in black and white and Eliza arrives to take centre stage dressed in flowing lavender. She shimmers in a stunning sparkly white dress as she heads to the ball. There were enough pink and sparkles to even satisfy me.
You will recognise all the songs and want to sing along long after the curtain falls.
For a beautiful nostalgic romp look no further than ‘My Fair Lady’, a gloriously faithful rendition of the original. One of the best parts for me was hearing Brisbane theatre goers still singing as they left the theatre with smiles on every face- young, old, male or female. The whole theatre had experienced a bloomin’ wonderful night out. I will be going again, once was just not enough for me. Twas truly loverly.