Saturday, 17 May 2008

My Fair Lady, May 17, 2008

My Fair Lady
By Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe, Opera Australia
State Theatre, May 17 to  May 31, 2008
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

One can’t go wrong with a musical as successful as My Fair Lady and Stuart Maunder’s extravagant, entertaining production for Opera Australia casts performers from both opera and music theatre to great effect. 

This famous story of Eliza Doolittle’s transformation from street urchin to lady originated in Shaw’s Pygmalion then evolved into the stage musical with Julie Andrews and the Audrey Hepburn film.

Taryn Fiebig (OK) plays a pert Eliza. Although her Cockney accent sometimes has echoes of Australia, her bright voice gives warmth and energy to the character. Wouldn’t It Be Loverly establishes Eliza’s credentials as a London flower seller and the ensemble provides an excellent chorus of street peddlers.

Fiebig’s vivacity adds sparkle when she sings I Could Have Danced All Night and Eliza’s growing excitement at her achievements is palpable in The Rain In Spain. In her simple and stately silence, Fiebig is also able to capture Eliza’s melancholy during Pickering (Rhys McConnochie) and Higgins’ (Reg Livermore) celebratory song, You Did It.

Livermore is very funny as the cynical misogynist, Henry Higgins, playing him as an ageing brat of the first order. He sing-speaks many of his songs, as did Rex Harrison. Livermore’s rendition of Hymn to Him (“Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”) is a tease while I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face gives more light and shade to Henry’s character.

Nancye Hayes, stalwart of the musical stage, is delightfully acerbic and elegant as Henry’s mother and she wears a gown with regal grace. McConnochie brings dignity, charm and credibility to Colonel Pickering and even gets away without a singing voice in You Did It!

Robert Grubb is simply delicious as Eliza’s ne’er-do-well dad, Alfred P. Doolittle. Supported by the fine chorus, he embodies Alfred’s mischievousness and good humour in both With A Little Bit of Luck and Get Me To The Church. Matthew Robinson is an appealing and lively as Freddy, singing On The Street Where You Live.

Richard Roberts’ sumptuous set design, incorporating refined Georgian architecture and realistic interiors, becomes a lead character and the lavish costumes by Roger Kirk are almost mouth-watering. The Ascot Gavotte provides a splendid parade of gorgeous gowns in peach, grey and white while the Ambassador’s Ball is so spectacularly luxurious it is difficult to breathe.

This is an exuberant production with fine performances and voices as well as opulent design.

By Kate Herbert

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