MusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

My Fair Lady – Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

Reviewer: Laura Stimpson

Book and Lyrics: Alan Jay Lerner

Music: Frederick Loewe

Director: Bartlett Sher

For the first time in over 20 years, Lerner and Loewe’s musical My Fair Lady is on tour following a successful run at the London Coliseum this summer. With a star studded, multi award winning cast, the Lincoln Center Theatre Production certainly aren’t relying on A Little Bit of Luck to try to encourage a new generation of audience members to fall in love with this classic musical.

Based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, the 1956 production of My Fair Lady was a huge success on Broadway, winning six Tony Awards, a hit run on the West End and a hit film in 1964 followed.

The story follows a young Cockney flower seller called Eliza Doolittle (Charlotte Kennedy) as she dreams of a better life, a room with a warm fire, lots of chocolate and a man to share it with. Along comes Henry Higgins (Michael D Xavier), a linguistics professor, and he and Colonel Pickering (John Middleton) set to work to transform her into a ‘proper lady’.

The original story is shocking and uncomfortable to a modern day audience, as Eliza is bullied by Higgins – she is merely his project, a “gutter snipe”, an insect. As Eliza so beautifully points out, it is not her who turns into a lady, it’s rather the way other people treat her that makes her feel like a lady or a flower seller. This version of the show, directed by Bartlett Sher, has a satirical feel, making it a little more palatable.

Michael D Xavier, playing Henry Higgins, is younger than usual previously choices for this role. Xavier plays an eccentric, misogynistic and arrogant Henry Higgins with a comedy twist. He is a fine actor with a great singing voice. A highlight is I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face, a tricky song, sung with ease, expression and comedy. While this take on the character is a welcome twist, it does serve to distract from the relationship we’re meant to believe has been built between him and Eliza later.

Lesley Garrett plays the funny, loveable Mrs Pearce beautifully, with an endearing broad Yorkshire accent. On the few occasions we get to hear her sing, it’s an absolute pleasure.

The whole cast is phenomenal. They effortlessly change between characters. The singing is beautiful; ensemble scenes energetic, engaging and perfectly choreographed by Christopher Gattelli.  Full cast highlights are the Ascot Gavote and Get Me to the Church on Time. These songs both showcase the talent of costume designer Catherine Zuber.

The set, which is mainly based around Higgins’ house, works well to portray both the interior and exterior. It is particularly effective in scenes where the house rotates, and we see characters walk from room to room.

The cast and creatives do a great job, the score is engaging, but the story just feels a little outdated for today’s audience even with this star studded cast and modern twist.

Runs until Sunday 2nd October 2022.

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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