My Fair Lady – Review – Bradford Alhambra
By Sandra Callard, September 2022
Some productions simply stand out from curtain up – and the result is usually something that lingers in the memories of those who get to see such a performance for the rest of their lives. This happened to me as I watched the Lincoln Center Theater’s production of My Fair Lady at Bradford Alhambra. Here was a theatre performance par excellence. It was, without a doubt, one of the finest musical productions I have seen in over thirty years of theatrical adventures.
The stage settings of this performance were some of the very best I have ever seen, particularly that of Henry Higgins’ parlour. The moving sets were quickly and easily executed and were set in a circular motion which showed the new action starting as the previous one moved swiftly out of sight. It was very quick and smooth and barely perceptible and added to the ease of action of the story. New speech occurred before the full extent of the new set was visible and this did not in any way encroach on the vanishing old scene. It was very clever – ensuring there was never a missed beat.
The very well known story was beautifully executed, actually towering above other productions of the same show I have seen. This My Fair Lady had an effortless and glorious power, and emerged faultless and almost-new from the stage of the Alhambra Theatre. There was not one offbeat performance throughout the whole show, with Michael D. Xavier emerging as the best Henry Higgins alive, with his equally brilliant ally, Charlotte Kennedy, glorying in her role of Eliza Doolittle. Her opening as the cheap and ignorant Eliza was convincingly uneducated, as was her total turnaround when she eventually sallied forth with her perfect English accent.
The wardrobe people did a wonderful job on the clothing of both sexes. The wealthy women’s clothing was, of course, stunningly beautiful, and the men also had their day. There were the lower classes streaming from the pub in anything they could get hold of, but the clothing of the upper classes was sharply smart or military and the whole effect was a wonderful and interesting variety of early Victorian dress.
The role of Eliza’s father, Alfred P Doolittle, complete with his array of cheap tricks, was surprisingly played by Adam Woodyatt, latterly of Eastenders fame, and it was possibly the best role he had ever played. He got it just right, with his obvious lack of care for his daughter, and his supreme care of himself, he sang ‘I’m Getting Married in the Morning’ with a perfect Cockney twang, which endeared him to the audience in spite of his criminal tendencies.
Everything about this show was pitched exactly right. The actors were superb, the sets were perfect, the singing was lovely and the orchestra was, as always, a beautiful necessity to the action on stage. The theatre was packed and it is always possible to gauge the reaction of the audience very early on in a full house when it is either very good or very bad, and it was obvious from the very beginning that this was a spectacularly good production. The audience reacted with the loud and long applause for the cast, and the smiles to each other on their departure, which will always follow a perfect night of theatre.
images: Marc Brenner