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Chris High reviews: Liverpool Empire 'My Fair Lady' 2005

50th Gala Performance Of Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe's
My Fair Lady


Amy Nuttall, Christopher Cazenove, Gareth Hale, Stephen Moore, Judith Paris , Romy Baskerville, Stephen Carlile
Producer: Cameron Macintosh
Director: Trevor Nunn
Liverpool Empire Theatre
15th March, 2006

My Fair Lady:  promotional image for the show

MY FAIR LADY


Following its first performance on 15th March, 1956 at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in New York, The New York Times dubbed My Fair Lady "the greatest musical of the twentieth century", thanks to its beautiful sets, exotic costumes and, of course, memorable songs. Fifty years on to the day and this now famous musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's original story, Pygmalion, demonstrates little sign of waning.

Starring television and theatre stalwart Christopher Cazenove as Professor Henry Higgins and former Emmerdale actress and, now, Classical chart star Amy Nuttall as Eliza Doolittle, this production simply zings along at a pace that is spellbinding.
At just on three hours in length, Ms.Nuttall is on stage for all but around twenty minutes and fills the theatre with her stamina, beauty and skill. Delivering songs and lines made famous by the likes of Julie Andrews on stage and, on film, Audrey Hepburn, is no mean feat. Yet she manages this and more with an effervescence that crackles and sparkles as the eponymous street-girl-turned-lady.

Amy Nuttall's renditions of Wouldn't It Be Loverly and I Could Have Danced All Night were breathtaking and her transformation from loveable "Cockerney Sparrer" to "Pretty Woman Princess" is made all the more sensational by the gowns she's given to wear.

Cazenove is, quite simply, Professor Higgins and carries on the role where Rex Harrison - himself a native of Liverpool - left off. His ability to keep up with Loewe's dextrous lyrics, whilst at the same time maintaining a stage persona of the stereotypical chauvenist, deserves special mention. Why Can't The English (Learn How To Speak) is as fresh today as it was when first performed and I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face is delivered with poignancy and charm.

Gareth Hale in the role of Eliza's worthless father, Alfred P. Doolittle, shows that there is more than just comedy to his make up. He can sing and dance with the best of them, as his working of With A Little Bit Of Luck and Get Me To The Church demonstrates, whereas Stephen Moore, as Higgins's side-kick, Pickering, fills the role of Wilfred Hyde-Whyte with just the right amount of "Nigel-Bruce-as-Watson" pomposity to be endearing.

Judith Paris as the matriarchal Mrs. Higgins and Romy Baskerville, as Higgins's housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce, deliver brilliant performances that are the bedrock of motherly correctness without which the absurdity of Higgins would collapse and Stephen Carlile as the-upper-class-twit-besotted-with-transformed-Eliza, Freddy Eynsford-Hill, makes the audience understand how On The Street Where On The Street Where You Live has remained such a timeless classic.

Quibbles? The first two songs were somewhat drowned out by the orchestra and some of the scenes, perhaps, were a little over-played, but these are minor faults and hardly detracted from the entertainment on offer, whilst the sets - especially that of Higgins's study - are mesmerising.

At the end of the evening, a Birthday cake was wheeled out and Alan Jay Lerner's wife, Liz Roberts, who herself appeared as Eliza at The Empire prior to the show beginning a record-breaking three year stint in the West End in 1978, summed up the evening perfectly: "Not only is My Fair Lady a show the twentieth century," she said, "but also of the twenty-first."

My Fair Lady might well have been running for half a century but is still, as its posters say, "A Dream Musical" to rival any other.
8/10


Click here to view details and book for the Liverpool Empire Theatre


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