Friday 20 May 2022

My Fair Lady - Review

Coliseum, London


Music by Frederick Loewe
Lyrics and book by Alan Jay Lerner
Directed by Bartlett Sher

Harry Hadden-Paton, Amara Okereke and Malcolm Sinclair

The plot of My Fair Lady sees Professor Henry Higgins set himself the challenge of transforming a poor Covent Garden flower girl into a passable member of England’s aristocracy. So it is with director Bartlett Sher, who defines his own challenge by having staged this famously satirical take on Edwardian England in his 2018 Broadway revival and then 4 years later transplanting that production into London’s Coliseum. It was in Guys and Dolls that Nathan Detroit sagely observed that “you cannot interpolate Chicago dice in a New York crap game”. The same is true of musical theatre, where Sher’s New Yorker’s take on this show fails to interpolate into a London venue. 

Harry Hadden-Paton’s Henry Higgins (for whom hurricanes hardly happen) and Amara Okereke as Eliza lead the cast and both are sublimely talented performers. But Hadden-Paton barely evolves from his Old Etonian caricature and Okereke, in the show’s opening scenes, fails to convince as an impoverished Cockney from Lisson Grove. From there on, the complex crucial chemistry between the pair is doomed. Only in her second act duet Show Me, with Sharif Afifi’s Freddy Eynsford-Hill, does Okereke - whose singing vocals are magnificent throughout - truly display Eliza’s passionate emotional potential.

The scenic design is curious - ranging from a meticulously created revolving interior of Higgins’ Wimpole Street home, through to economically designed exteriors that are dwarfed on the Coliseum’s cavernous stage. Sher appears to have set Get Me To The Church On Time in little more than a box-ticking version of Berlin’s Kit Kat Club and as for his enigmatic ending to the show, make of that what you will.

Malcolm Sinclair’s Colonel Pickering and Vanessa Redgrave as Mrs Higgins offer up delicious work in support and for those who have missed the magnificence of Loewe’s score, the ENO Orchestra give those wondrous melodies a sumptuous treatment.

Runs until 27th August
Photo credit: Marc Brenner

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