My Fair Lady has been a firm favourite since its premiere on the Broadway stage back in 1956. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s epic tome Pygmalion, it has been in production off and on since then, and spawned a highly successful multi-Oscar winning film starring Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway (the latter two reprising their stage performances).
My Fair Lady centres on Eliza Doolittle (Carly Bawden), a cockney flower girl who, after a chance encounter with Henry Higgins (Dominic West) and Colonel Pickering (Anthony Calf) becomes the subject of a wager between the two gentlemen. Higgins, a phonetics professor, bets Pickering that he can pass Eliza off as a high-born lady, but he gets more than he bargains for from the remarkable Eliza.
Since Daniel Evans took over as Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres we have been treated to some wonderful set designs, and tonight’s is no different. Upon entering the Crucible, we are greeted with a busy East End scene, and for well over two hours (interval aside) it doesn’t stop. Indeed, Evan’s My Fair Lady bears all the hallmarks of a West End musical, and that is ultimately where this brilliant production will end up.
One of the main attractions of course are Lerner and Loewe’s compositions, it is crammed-full with whole litany of memorable songs: Get Me to the Church on Time, With a Little Bit of Luck, The Rain in Spain, I Could Have Danced All Night, Wouldn’t it be Loverly. The list is almost endless. The cast and orchestra really belt the numbers out; one of the most impressive aspects is the sheer energy and gusto with which the cast really throw themselves into the performance. Not to mention the great choreography.
Carly Bawden is nothing less than a revelation as Eliza Doolittle; carrying off both the Cockney flower girl and the presentable lady with aplomb. She makes it all look so effortless, with her singing and acting strong, exuberant and striking. She is clearly a star in the making with a big future ahead of her. She really has made this part her own, managing to outshine two impressive turns from both West and Calf, along with strong performances throughout an impressive supporting cast.
Daniel Evans really has surpassed himself this time, with My Fair Lady being the best production I’ve ever seen in Sheffield. I strongly advise a trip to the Crucible. My Fair Lady runs until Saturday 26th January.