By George, They Got It My Fair Lady is a show jam-packed with well known musical numbers and has remained a favourite with audiences through the years.
Drawing heavily on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, it deals with all kinds of themes - class, morality relationships and the place of women in. society, being just some of them. It is, to my taste, often over-wordy and Higgins' songs go on a bit, but here was a fresh new approach, brought up-to-date with a production style that would be the envy of any company. Played on an attractive open set, the choreographed scene changes (mostly by the cast) were clever and slick and made the show run with hardly a pause.
Director Ray Jeffery is responsible for more than 40 previous productions of this show and it was clearly evident. He is the master of chorus direction and they were so compelling to watch that they were in danger of upstaging the excellent principals. His routines and artistic groupings are a joy - highlights being the Ascot Gavotte and the fantastic I'm Getting Married in the Morning.
Jim Welling as Henry Riggins, a man who is wrapped up in his intellectual pursuits, gave a well-acted performance, with a good presence. Although often spoken, as befits the role, some of his musical numbers were a little out of time – a small gripe for a fine portrayal. The part of Eliza is difficult - finding the right level in both flower girl and society lady can be tricky without resorting to caricature. Clare Ryan did a great job on all counts, bringing out her character splendidly.
Colonel Pickering, strongly played by Anthony Mitchell, effectively portrayed his concern for Eliza and Len Annakin as Alfred P. Doolittle turned in a most enjoyable comedy performance, especially with his sidekicks Martin Webb and Mike Dyer.
The other supporting characters (including Bryn Hughes as the chinless Freddy Eynsford-Hill, Liz Ilett as Mrs Pearce and Chris Hunter as Mrs Higgins), all gave good support.
Musical director Neil Streeter, with his very fine orchestra, gave good accompaniment to the well-rehearsed vocals and good sound management ensured we heard every word.
Credit also to a creative lighting plot and a super set of costumes; in all, a first-class production, and absolutely loverly.