By Jove, they’ve got it! As soon as the orchestra strikes up the overture, you can’t fail to realise just how many great and memorable songs come from this one musical. Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady” is jam packed with hits including “Wouldn’t it be loverly?”, ”I could have danced all night” and “On the street where you live”, all of which are delivered flawlessly by this charming and talented cast.
Michael D. Xavier, an award-winning West End and Broadway star, is outstanding in the role of Henry Higgins, the linguistics professor, who attempts to train Eliza Doolittle (beautifully played by Charlotte Kennedy) a poor Covent Garden flower girl, to speak “correctly” and thereby pass her off in London Society as a lady.
The challenge with a favourite such as this, is to breathe new life into something so familiar and give the audience more than they might expect – and this production succeeds in spades. The costumes are breath taking – particularly of course, in the glorious scene at the Ascot races. But more impressive still is Michael Yeargan’s clever use of a revolving stage, which in turn shows us glimpses of the rooms inside Higgins’ London town house and which the cast make much use of, seamlessly weaving in and out of the various doors as the stage rotates.
There are familiar faces too. Colonel Pickering is endearingly played by John Middleton, best known for playing Ashley Thomas in ITV’s Emmerdale and Lesley Garrett CBE, is delightful in the role of the formidable housekeeper Mrs Pearce. It’s just a shame that she really only has one solo musical line with which to showcase her classically trained soprano voice, but this does, at least, elicit a huge cheer from the audience.
But the stand out moment of the show undoubtedly has to come from Adam Woodyat, best known as Ian Beale in BBC’s Eastenders, who plays Alf Doolittle, Eliza’s loveable but ne’er-do-well father, and has us smiling from the first moment we meet him. His performance of “Get me to the church on time” (including some quality singing and dancing) is captivating and the production has worked magic on this much-loved number, staging it as an East End stag night in the pub, complete with Can Can dancing girls and drunken blokes in drag. Rapturous applause completely deserved.
Overall, this is a refreshing new take on a much beloved classic which predictably received a standing ovation from a joyful and appreciative Hippodrome audience. Catch the show before Saturday 25th February and you will leave the theatre smiling. One word of warning though, you may still be humming those many beloved classics a week later.