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Friday, 28 December 2012

Theatre - My Fair Lady - Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

Star rating - 10/10

If you are looking for a sublime production which achieves perfection in score, choreography, acting, and sheer festive spirit, then look no further than My Fair Lady at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre,  directed by Daniel Evans. The raw material he has to work with may be a cut above other musicals, with an enchanting story line based on the original Pygmalion novel by George Bernard Shaw, and the wonderful songs from Gabrial Pascal's hit film; but really it has no business being quite this good.

Dominic West, returning again to his home town theatre after playing Iago here in Othello last year, is a singing revelation as Professor Henry Higgins, who takes a poor little cockney flower girl and transforms her, phonetically speaking, into a princess. But the show is well and truly stolen by Carly Bawden as Eliza Doolittle, and to equal the gorgeous Audrey Hepburn performance is no mean feat. Bawden is captivating, comedy gold, and has a beautiful voice too. 

But this show is not just about its two leads. The whole cast offer a festive delight of sumptuous singing, perfect dancing and general merriment. The choreography is absolutely brilliant, especially in the Ascot race scene, and at the formal Embassy ball, which is the culmination of the whole experiment to pass Eliza off as a lady. In fact from first entering the theatre, the audience are transported to the hustle and bustle of a London fruit and vegetable market in a quite captivating way. And the magic spell is never once broken.

The sets are astonishingly good, the costumes are stunning, and how the orchestra give such an enchanting musical performance, hidden away as they are beneath the Crucible stage, is a miracle. There are some other notable performances; Martyn Ellis is perfect as Eliza's grasping father who quickly sees his opportunity of benefitting from his daughter's new acquaintances; and Louis Maskell as Freddy, the would be suitor to the beautiful and mysterious newcomer, both have quite brilliant vocal performances. 

I cannot remember ever having seen a musical which was quite so perfect and accomplished, and which made everyone in the audience grin from first to last. No wonder it's a sell out already. It is more than good enough to grace any West End stage. Bravo all round! 

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