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REVIEW: 'My Fair Lady' by Queensland Musical Theatre

My Fair Lady holds a special place in the history of Queensland Musical Theatre, being the first show ever staged by the company 40 years ago. Deian Ping, the original Eliza Doolittle, now leads as the director of this sparkling revival. This heartfelt nod to the company's history is rich in nostalgia, with two of the original costumes making a reappearance on our new, dazzling Eliza. One thing is clear—My Fair Lady continues to captivate audiences with its timeless story, unforgettable characters, and enduring charm that transcends generations.


This classic musical from 1956 was cooked up by the lyrical genius Alan Jay Lerner and maestro Frederick Loewe. Set in 1912, it follows Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl, who takes phonetics lessons from snooty Professor Henry Higgins to refine her speech and manners. As Higgins attempts to transform her into a proper lady, his cynicism and difficulty understanding women give way to an unexpected attachment to Eliza.

 

Kirra Lang as Eliza Doolittle is nothing short of outstanding. From her thick Cockney accent to her refined upper-class speech, Lang's transformation is mesmerising. As Higgins describes, she is a truly 'captivating creature,' especially in that blinged-out ballgown. Lang embodies this role as if she were born for it; her Cockney accent is so authentically thick at the beginning that I almost needed a translator. In "Just You Wait," Lang's ability to maintain her rough accent while delivering flawless vocals is seriously impressive. Her emotional range is also off the charts—from gritty and grating, to desperate and distraught, to fierce and self-assured.



The Eliza-Higgins showdowns are like watching a tennis match, intense yet oh-so natural. The scenes of Higgins schooling Eliza are pure gold, culminating with "The Rain in Spain" as Lang's operatic pipes finally get their moment to shine and Higgins cracks a smile for once. Lang's solos "Without You" and "Show Me" exude strength and independence, embodying a modern feminist spirit. And of course, she sings "I Could Have Danced All Night" with a dreamy, classical, and just plain beautiful tone.



James Lennox portrays Henry Higgins with a perfectly disdainful 'sourpuss' demeanour from start to finish. His delivery of each line is so precise and purposeful, that I'd bet my bottom dollar he was an actual haughty English gent. His portrayal carries a charming comedic flair that continuously garners laughter, helping the audience to overlook his less savoury traits. "I'm an Ordinary Man" and "A Hymn to Him" are vocal gems, full of scorn and sass, delivered with such finesse that you almost forget the misogyny. His constant tailcoat flourish during "You Did It," as he discusses Eliza as if she were a doll, is a delightful character choice. Lennox's final solo, "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face," is the cherry on top of his beautiful vocal sundae.

 


David McLaughlin’s Colonel Pickering is the epitome of a perfect gentleman, providing a stark contrast to Higgins' brusqueness. Lachlan Dodd as Freddy is both charming and endearing; his rendition of "On the Street Where You Live" (my favourite number) serenades the audience with boyish enthusiasm and magnetic stage presence. Jordan Ross as Alfred P. Doolittle brings robust energy to his role. His performance of "With a Little Bit of Luck" is a crowd favourite, oozing charisma and vocal prowess. All his character choices—pacing of dialogue, rough accent, staggering movement, and even grunting— adds to the portrayal of the unsightly yet likeable rogue. Reece Ratcliffe makes a memorable impact in his short lead performance as Zolton and shines throughout his multiple ensemble tracks. Fiona Buchanan as Mrs. Higgins brings sharp wit to her character, garnering laughter and applause with her well-delivered lines.



The large ensemble cast contributes significantly to the show's dynamic energy and entertainment value. The quartet and Eliza crooning "Wouldn’t It Be Loverly" is a vocal feast with stunning harmonies, a true testament to the musical direction by Julie Whiting. The lighting design during this number adds to the whimsy, including a delightful dance break thrown in with choreography by Bec Swain. Skye Schultz and Jackson Muir, as Harry and Jamie respectively, provide comedic relief in all their Covent Garden scenes with gorgeous harmonious singing and lively performances. "Get Me to the Church on Time" is a vibrant ensemble number, featuring plenty of inventive choreography and a high-energy performance from the entire cast.


The "Ascot Gavotte" scene is perfection, with its precise lack of enthusiasm and stunning costumes. Eliza’s awkward attempt at high society behaviour while wearing a dress she can't move in is both hilarious and endearing with Lang's blend of posh and cheek. The elegant waltz choreography at the ball is a sight to behold, with full skirts and lush music filling the theatre. The guests entering the ball through the audience is a nice touch. Despite a few oddly placed costumes, the focus remains on Eliza's transformation. The orchestra, under the baton of Julie Whiting, delivers an extraordinary musical accompaniment, captivating the audience with enchanting melodies.

 

The blocking is occasionally cluttered and awkward, but that's understandable with such a large cast. While the dance numbers sometimes lacked energy and performers were often looking down—likely an acting choice to reflect societal demureness—any fatigue can also be attributed to the length of the show. Act 1 runs nearly two hours, so I applaud the entire team for their concentration and remind the audience to be prepared with plenty of refreshments and snacks. I knew this show was a marathon, not a sprint, so as Freddy wisely says, "let the time go by…"

 

Regarding the production elements, the set design features versatile white arches that seamlessly transform into various settings like Covent Garden, Higgins' study, and the grand ballroom. The staging of Higgins' study, with its intricate details and elegant furnishings, is particularly noteworthy. The costumes transported the audience back to Edwardian London, with Eliza’s six stunning costumes standing out as visual highlights. Each costume change signified her transformation, culminating in the glittering ball gown that left the audience in awe.

 

Every aspect of the production reflects the hard work and creativity poured into bringing My Fair Lady to life once again. Queensland Musical Theatre has produced a delightful production filled with heart, humour, and impressive performances. With two performances remaining, visit the Twelfth Night Theatre and let the cast transport you to a bygone era of elegance, wit, and musical brilliance.






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