Following its critically acclaimed West End run, the Lincoln Center Theater’s multi-award-winning production of My Fair Lady, directed by Bartlett Sher, is the first major revival of Lerner & Loewe’s popular musical to go on tour in over 15 years. Featuring Frederick Loewe’s romantic score with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, this musical shines a light on the contradictions between class and gender roles that can still be recognised today.
The cast is made up of experienced theatre stars, TV actors, and new talent alike. With such a brilliant mix of performers, all bases are covered when it comes to quality and appeal. In some shows it can be hard to see past the TV stars, but here Adam Woodyatt (Eastenders) goes back to his roots and looks like he is having a ball as Alfred P. Doolittle. Similarly, John Middleton (Emmerdale) manages to blend perfectly into the cast in his role of the kind Colonel Pickering.
Charlotte Kennedy plays the fair lady in question, Eliza Doolittle, giving her the fiery spark that makes her her – even after the grand transformation. Kennedy lets the audience sympathise with her position, which makes her triumph in mastering the English Language during The Rain in Spain that much more satisfying with a beautiful soprano voice that is simply exquisite to witness.
Michael D. Xavier, who stars as Henry Higgins, has the hard job of striking a balance between being strict – and at times cruel – yet still endearing and eccentric enough to be likeable. His energetic performance helps him overcome this challenge, with I’m an Ordinary Man in particular garnering many laughs from the audience as we see his worldview called into question.
World famous opera singer Lesley Garret is excellent as the maternal Mrs Pearce. Tom Liggins has his moment to shine as the young lover Freddie with rose-tinted glasses singing The Street Where You Live, which is a contrast to Eliza’s frustrated Show Me rendition, performed against the beautiful idealised-London backdrops by Michael Yeargan.
The chorus do a fantastic job switching between the lower class, servants, and upper class with subtle added quirks – their colourful costumes bringing the characters to life during The Servants Chorus and Ascot Gavotte. Higgins’ house is a remarkable turn table that allows us to see every twist and turn of the story and the characters that dwell within. Songs like Just You Wait are beautifully choreographed, letting the song and Kennedy naturally flow through the house.
Get me to the Church On Time is a colourfully choreographed dance with a pub that revolves to reveal a church, which serves as poetic irony, where Doolittle is carried off like a funeral march to be wed.
Using the 2018 re-written ending, the conclusion of the show is more sombre as Eliza maintains her independence, which for a more modern audience may be the most satisfying way to end her journey. My Fair Lady serves as a lesson cunningly dressed up in glitter and glamour, like Miss Eliza, to remind us that not everything is what they seem.