Book and Lyrics
Alan Jay Lerner
My Fair Lady tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a young Cockney flower seller, and Henry Higgins, a linguistics professor who is determined to transform her into his idea of a “proper lady”. But who is really being transformed?
The first West End revival of My Fair Lady in twenty-one years is a faithful re-enactment of the timeless classic, with adjustments to make it a more suitable experience for a modern audience. My only recollection of this show was based on the 1964 movie, which showcased a patronising Henry Higgins and a reflection of a male dominated society at the time; thus, I was unsure how well received the story would be in this day and age.
Harry Haddon-Paton reprised the role of Henry Higgins following his Broadway debut in 2018, who I believe is at least ten years younger than previous actors in this role. Overall, the character was adjusted so that he is portrayed as somebody who hasn't quite grasped the social etiquettes and his egoistic aspect, while present, felt downplayed and made Henry Higgins overall, a slightly more likeable character. While the show has always been about how Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle influenced each other, Henry's transformation, in my opinion, is far more significant that Eliza's. Don't hate or leave me yet, I can explain this.
Eliza's transformation lies in how she speaks and conducts herself, but she has always been a confident and motivated individual. Alas, it was Eliza that tracked down Henry to give her speech lessons to begin with. Amara Okereke is a phenomenal vocalist and there is no denying that her performance was both emotional and delightful. However, with the exception of a few select scenes, Eliza's pronunciation and dictions were already quite clear and the changes following her training with Higgins was not that, for a lack of a better word, pronounced. This might have been a deliberate choice as it may be difficult for live audience to fully grasp the dialogues otherwise.
As is with many larger and complex productions, the stage was crowded with different sets that came on and off the stage between scenes. Given the number of set pieces and the frequency of change in environment, the movements were fluid and seamless. However, while I was impressed by what happened on stage, the experience from the audience is a slightly different matter. I would like note that I sat in the Balcony and the acoustic was not particularly good there, a similar feeling shared by my neighbours. In addition, I was a little underwhelmed by the recording of horses galloping and felt like there were only 3 or 4 horses involved. While I've never witnessed a race in real life, I am pretty sure there are usually more than a handful. Similarly, while I can only imagine the impact of a full orchestra accompanying this stage performance, the sound quality was not quite enough to blow me away from where I sat.
This My Fair Lady West revival features a star studded cast, featuring the likes of Harry Haddon-Paton, Vanessa Redgrave, Stephen Amos, and Malcolm Sinclair. Given the experience of the cast and the creative team involved, this production is a well executed, polished, and a visual spectacle that is worth seeing.