The well-known proverb “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is brought to mind by Southern Lights Opera Company’s production of My Fair Lady. This traditional take on the classic musical, directed by Andy Johnston, showcases the incredible songs that every musical fan knows and loves. Despite initially taking a while to find its feet, the production’s unforgettable characters and catchy music made for a thoroughly entertaining performance.
The production was punctuated by various strong performances from the main cast, from the lovable cheekiness of Keith Kilgore’s Albert P. Doolittle to the hilarious portrayal of Mrs Higgins by Averyl Nash, which echoed the farcical ridiculousness of Wilde’s Lady Augusta Bracknell. Rebekah Lansley led the show with her depiction of the protagonist Eliza Doolittle and did not disappoint in her depth of character, not to mention her powerful and impressive singing voice, displayed by ‘Just You Wait’ and ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’.
Doolittle was well complimented by her Henry Higgins, played by John Bruce, although his dedication to the character’s prejudices did make their romantic reconciliation in the finale somewhat unconvincing. Bruce’s Higgins was particularly cutting towards Eliza, at times to the point of discomfort for the audience. However, this was softened by the endearing and caring Colonel Pickering, played by Alan Hunter, and so did not threaten the overall cheeriness of the musical.
By setting the musical in its original context, the staging, set and costumes all combined to produce a charming tribute to Edwardian-era London. The staging was especially remarkable, with frequent scene changes gradually revealing more of the stage and elaborate set, culminating in the bright lights and dramatic staircase of the Embassy Ball. The Ball was also a highlight in terms of costuming, with each dress a different blur of colour, although the contrastingly monotone colour scheme of Ascot was also striking.
One drawback of conforming to the original production of My Fair Lady is that some of the more dated aspects of the show, particularly in relation to gender roles, are perpetuated, despite not having a place within a 21st-century society. This created some jarring and uncomfortable moments in the show, such as Alfred Doolittle’s “selling” of his daughter to Higgins for £5, a fact that Higgins then holds over Eliza. However, these were only moments, and did not threaten the timeless humour of the plot.
Southern Light’s My Fair Lady was a feast for the eyes and ears, from the elaborate costumes of the Embassy Ball to the intricate ensemble dances, brimming with vibrancy. This resulted in a funny and enjoyable performance, bursting with energy that could be felt from the Stalls to the Upper Circle.
My Fair Lady
Image: Capital Theatres