A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

music
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MY FAIR LADY (article first published : 2006-12-13)

Before I start, I have a confession to make. I find it difficult to be dispassionate about My Fair Lady. I was taken to see it as a child during the original run at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane - my first ever West End show, and I came out with stars in my eyes. I have seen other versions since, but this great Lerner and Loewe musical still has a very special place in my heart.

The Playhouse Company's new production does nothing to spoil that - it is uniformly excellent. My Fair Lady may be 50 years old but the story of the irascible, arrogant professor of phonetics Henry Higgins who transforms Eliza Doolittle, a cockney flower seller, into a society lady by teaching her to lose her accent - that great British class marker - has worn well. It helps that the roots lie in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion; underlying the froth and comedy, social questions of class mobility and arrogance are being examined, but this never impedes the sheer delight the musical brings to its audience.

Higgins decides to take Eliza's transformation on as the result of a bet with his friend Colonel Pickering who reckons he'll never do it. He succeeds, of course, but by treating Eliza as a project rather than a person. It is easy enough to buy off her dustman father, but his self-congratulation and ignoring of Eliza after her social triumph at the embassy ball threatens to bring his whole construct down on his head, almost literally. Higgins needs to be taught a lesson, and this time, Eliza is the one to teach.

Director Steven Stead gets fine performances from his principals. Ralph Lawson is everything Higgins needs to be - short tempered, crass, insensitive, funny and ultimately vulnerable. Carol Trench is in great voice as Eliza, though perhaps she could offer a little more emotion towards the end. But she gives her songs - the glorious I Could Have Danced All Night, the riotous Just You Wait and the touching Wouldn't it be Luverly? - the full treatment.

Lisa Bobbert will take the role of Eliza at certain performances, including Saturday matinees, and the word is that she, too, is excellent.

Themi Venturas is at his absolute best as the raucous, funny and knowing Alfred Doolittle and belts out With a Little Bit of Luck and Get me to the Church on Time; Frank Graham is a fine Pickering; Vera Clare as acerbic as ever as Mrs Higgins; Cobus Venter as Freddy sings the lovely The Street Where you Live with aplomb and Alison Cassels makes a suitably sympathetic Mrs Pearce. In fact, the whole cast is excellent.

The refurbished Opera Theatre is a fine setting for all this. Greg King has created a magnificent set using all the tricks the Opera stage can provide. The venerable machinery did give the odd creak, but the Art Nouveau touches and sheer opulence are a delight, as are Neil Stuart-Harris's costumes, particularly the traditionally black-and-white Ascot scene. Add Mark Hawkins's sharp choreography and the full KZNPO under the baton of Graham Scott, and you have it all.

My Fair Lady is perfect December escapism, visually enchanting, witty and fun. For anyone who loves spectacle and theatre, a trip to the Playhouse this December is a must.

My Fair Lady runs until December 31. Performances Tuesday to Saturday at 19h30 with matinees at 14h00 on Saturdays and 15h00 on Sundays. Tickets R50 to R80 (prebooked) or R55 to R90 at the door an hour before shows. Book at Playhouse Box Office on 031 369 9596 or 031 369 9540, or at Computicket outlets or www.computicket.co.za - Margaret von Klemperer




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart