- Fiona Prior
Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady
The theatre production My Fair Lady, set in London in 1912 is such a period piece! Probably, it is the film starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison that forms most of the memories of this old world musical for Henry’s readers. Without its retro time-frames it could almost be termed obnoxious by today’s standards but My Fair Lady, based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion was definitely viewed by Sydney’s audience as a delightful oddity. Going way, way back in history Shaw’s Pygmalion was based on Greek myth, as I am sure you know.
It is amazing how the passing of each decade highlights ever more starkly the injustices of those that came before! Professor Henry Higgin’s is an unaware bully and snob, speaking of Eliza Doolittle as a gutter snipe, baggage, etc., and acquiring her from her father for five pounds! Thankfully, progressive women’s rights movement victories and challenges (including the present scrutiny into discrepancies between the wages of men and women) is slowly but surely wedging Western society into greater equality of the sexes and so many of the other social injustices that will be conspicuously highlighted to our future generations.
Lyndon Terrracini AM, Artistic Director of Opera Australia and John Frost AM, Managing, Director of the Gordon Frost Organisation note in the Sydney production’s program that they wished to recreate the 1956 original. They bring to this production the original and beautiful costume design by Cecil Beaton and the glorious stage design of Oliver Smith. Their master stroke has been to invite the legendary Julie Andrews to direct the show.
You’ll remember all the songs as soon as you hear the first few chords: ‘Wouldn’t It Be Lovely’, ‘With a Little Bit of Luck’, ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’, ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face’ and all the other favourites; each and every one of these ditties jumping to life from the recesses of deep memory.
Anna O’Byrne is a delightful Eliza Doolittle and Charles Edwards plays Professor Higgins as too gormless and spoilt to realise the issues involved in treating a human being like a social experiment and too uptight to realise that he is falling in love. Tony Llewellyn-Jones delivers his Colonel Pickering like a dear, old uncle and Robyn Nevin plays Higgin’s mother with just the right blend of hope for, and disappointment in her son. On the night I attended this 60th anniversary production of Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre the production received a standing ovation.
A little addendum for those who watched HBO’s Big Little Lies on television – I binge watched the series on a very long flight – is that it was Zoe Kravitz character, dressed as Eliza Doolittle who kills the wife-basher/rapist at the show’s climax by pushing him over a cliff! Puts a whole new spin on the song ‘Just you Wait, Henry Higgins’…
Now, back to Henry