It was through my love of Audrey Hepburn that I first discovered the classic American film My Fair Lady (1964) directed by George Cukor. I instantly adored it and have wanted to see the live musical version ever since.
Based on the play by Bernard Shaw entitled Pygmalion and with the dream of Gabriel Pascal to turn it into a musical, lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe brought My Fair Lady the musical to life. Taking audiences on a grand melodic journey on Broadway in 1956 for a sensational 2,717 performance run, the lead female role of Eliza Doolittle went to the young and talented rising star, Julie Andrews, and the lead male role to seasoned theatrical actor, Rex Harrison, who won the Academy Award for his performance in the film version, with the Warner Bros film also taking out the Best Picture of the Year category in 1965. The Broadway version was followed by a hit London production (running for 5.5 years at the Theatre Royal) and the musical eventually reached Australian audiences by 1959, playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne to high acclaim.
The story is set in London in the year 1912. Eliza Doolittle, a common flower-girl from the lower classes meets phonetician Professor Henry Higgins outside Covent Garden one night. He makes a bet with fellow language expert, Colonel Pickering, that he can transform Eliza into a duchess at the embassy ball, teaching her to speak proper English and to behave like a lady who can then work as a shop assistant at a flower shop. Through their ups and downs, the audience is able to witness her transformation and gain insight into British classes, gender politics and social values of the time, all within a light-hearted sense of comedy and playfulness.
Dame Julie Andrews directs this very special diamond jubilee production, which broke box-office records at the Sydney Opera House when it played there in 2016. Last month the beautiful production hit Melbourne’s Regent Theatre where it will continue until July 29th. Don’t miss your chance to see it!
First of all, the majestic Regent Theatre is a breathtaking place to hold such a special show. The organisers and everyone involved should be praised for their choice of venue and everything about this musical production. The interiors of the Regent Theatre are simply spectacular and I was pleasantly transported to the class of creativity seen in Barcelona earlier this year whilst on holidays there. The exquisite detailing, lavish furnishings and luxurious fittings leading up to and inside the main concert hall were elegant and set the mood nicely. Photography was allowed prior to the start of the show only. The lights went out and the live orchestra began the Overture, entertaining us with short renditions of all the main musical numbers we were about to hear play out on stage. The curtain opened and I immediately knew that we were in for a delightful night of heartfelt, glorious music accompanying the amazing performances from the cast and the hardworking crew backstage.
In this wonderful 60th anniversary production it is also worth mentioning that as a world first, director Dame Julie Andrews teamed up with the associates and former staff of the original set designer Oliver Smith and costume designer Cecil Beaton to recreate the original look of the musical of 1956. Audiences are able to come face-to-face with designs from both these visionaries in the upper and lower foyers before the show and during the short interval.
Piece by piece the audience were delighted by music that makes the heart sing. The vocal performances of the Melbourne cast were incredible. The role of Professor Higgins was played ever-so-brilliantly by Charles Edwards and Anna O’Byrne’s Eliza Doolittle almost brought me to tears because of my connection and love of Audrey Hepburn. There were revolving sets, wonderful lighting and sound effects, and even a surprise on stage that no one was expecting but was always intended for the original Broadway production.
My favourite part would definitely have to be the immaculate Ascot Racecourse scene where the curtain opens to reveal a cast of men and women all dressed in black and white attire at the famous London horse race. The attention to detail on the hats and gowns of the women and the charm of the men with their suits, still gives me such a thrill just thinking about it. They sing an opening number and then we are introduced to the beautifully transformed Eliza Doolittle, now a lady with confidence and poise, who converses with other race-goers about the weather and everyone’s health. Once the horse race starts though, her cockney upbringing comes to the foreground and audiences are laughing out loud uncontrollably as she cheers for her horse, Dover, to win the race. I love it!
I enjoyed this production immensely and couldn’t stop smiling for the entire duration of the show! I would like to thank Dame Julie Andrews and everyone involved (notably Opera Australia and John Frost) for bringing this musical to life for younger generations like mine who only came to know it from the film version. Having one of your favourite musicals play out right in front of you is an unforgettable experience that I will always cherish.
My Fair Lady is a masterpiece.
Tickets are available through Ticketmaster but are selling fast.