MY FAIR LADY
book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner music by Frederick Loewe.
Pitlochry Festival Theatre Port-Na-Craig Pitlochry PH16 5DR In rep to 15 October 2011.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 01796 484626.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 8 August.
It can entrance all night.
Artistic Director John Durnin’s revival of Lerner and Loewe’s finest musical turns a stage meant for smaller matters than major musicals to dramatic advantage. Employing actor-musicians (the curtain-call reveals that Professor Higgins has been tooting a mean clarinet behind the scenes when not pontificating in full view), Durnin gives full dramatic value to the musical taken from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.
Based on the legend of a sculptor who falls in love with one of his creations and brings her to life, Shaw’s play shows a speech expert who is famously said to squeeze the individuality out of a flower-seller while proving he can make her speak well enough to pass for a duchess. But Pitlochry’s My Fair Lady shows Eliza Doolittle keeping her individuality in Kate Quinnell’s performance.
Durnin achieves a devastating contrast as Quinnell’s Eliza sweeps triumphantly round the room in an assertion of human joy as she commands the whole stage for ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’. For he follows that with the fashionable Ascot race-crowd stepping on with auto-pilot uniformity to banal words and a deliberately trite tune.
Eliza, though, doesn’t want to be a great society dame. What motivates her is the prospect of rising to work in a shop. Movingly, as she collects the coins Higgins has carelessly thrown down, Quinnell’s Liza dreams of what would be “luvverly” as the Professor and his friend Pickering disappear, casually discussing dialects.
There are deft musical touches, from before the start where the Funeral March from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung greets the entering audience – an incongruous- seeming choice till it’s revealed that’s the opera the crowd’s being watching. There’s a deft comic touch too as the servants repeatedly chorus ‘Poor Professor Higgins’, while a couple of housemaids polish the double-bass Fred Broom’s playing to accompany them.
Designer Adrian Rees surrounds Higgins’ home with words, words, words. With Lee’s lively Higgins bounding on to the furniture, Quinnell’s lively performance coupled with Gareth Machin, characterful as her father, the poetic dustman Doolittle, Clare Richards’ shrewd asperity as Higgins’ mother and strong supporting work, this is a joyous night at Pitlochry.
Freddy Eynsford-Hill: Sandy Batchelor.
Eliza Doolittle: Kate Quinnell.
Colonel Pickering: Robin Harvey-Edwards.
Henry Higgins: Dougal Lee.
Hoxton Man: Charles Bell.
Selsey Man: Sam Pay.
Costermongers: Matthew Romain, Fred Broom.
Jamie: Alan Steele.
George: Richard Delaney.
Alfred Doolittle: Darren Machin.
Flower Girl: Amanda Gordon.
Mrs Hopkins: Helen Logan.
Mrs Pearce: Jacqueline Dutoit.
Mrs Higgins: Clare Richards.
Lady Boxington: Emma Odell.
Lady Tarrington: Shirley Darroch.
Zoltan Karpathy: Chris Vincent.
Director: John Durnin.
Designer/Costume: Adrian Rees.
Lighting: Ace McCarron.
Sound: Paul Smith.
Musical Arranger/Director: Jon Beales.
Choreographer: Chris Stuart-Wilson.
Associate lighting: Kate Bonney.
Additional Arrangements/Associate musical director: Stuart Watson.