MY FAIR LADY
The Bristol Hippodrome
Tuesday 26th – Saturday 30th September 2017
BLOC is Bristol’s own multi-award-winning amateur production company which puts on shows at the Bristol Hippodrome. I enjoyed White Christmas a couple of years ago and their Fiddler on the Roof was excellent. This week it was the turn of My Fair Lady. Yes, of course I’ve seen the film, but the stage production would be a new experience for both my son and me.
I’ve had a few weeks off reviewing because my eldest son has just had two eye operations, we’re having a house extension and what with that and all the normal commitments of having a young family, I just haven’t been able to find the time for it, but this Tuesday the timing worked out well. We came straight from the eye hospital where we collected new contact lenses which should help my son see better than he ever has before, had a tasty bite to eat in the Nice Spice noodle bar around the corner from the theatre and settled in to watch My Fair Lady and test out Jamifly’s new improved vision.
MY FAIR LADY SYNOPSIS
Based on George Bernard Shaw’s, Pygmalion, My Fair Lady is a rags to riches story of Edwardian street flower-seller Eliza Doolittle. Her mentor, Henry Higgins sets himself the challenge of refining her common Cockney speech and rough manners and presenting her to society as a lady. Will he succeed and if he does, what will become of Eliza and where will she belong after the transformation?
MY FAIR LADY REVIEW
In this musical comedy poor Eliza is treated harshly by Higgins who sees her as an object ripe for improvement, ordering her to bathe, her clothes to be burnt and referring to her as “deliciously low”. Eliza initially has little choice but to tolerate his heartless behaviour but kind housekeeper, Mrs Pearce (Laura Stanley) and Colonel Pickering (Chris Parslow) defend her corner and eventually Eliza learns to give as good as she gets and becomes a force to be reckoned with.
Charlotte Hunter (Eliza) has her accents down to a tee and I’m relieved when she remembers to forget her manners and shrieks out that memorable line in front of the gentry at Ascot Race Course,
“Come on Dover! Move your bloomin’ arse!”
The dialogue is clever and Higgins’ disrespectful, Machiavellian attitude is outrageously funny. Peter Cottell’s deep, dry delivery has something of Hugh Laurie about it and I find him a totally convincing, arrogant, self-centred Higgins!
Higgins’ peer and co-conspirator Colonel Pickering is a gentler character who can empathise with Eliza’s feelings and despite her lowly origins, treats her like a lady. Chris Parslow is excellent in this role and the two gentlemen make a strong pair.
The other remarkable character is Eliza’s unsavoury father, Alfred Doolittle. Simon Vardakis is brilliant in this role, with his dancing, singing and roguish acting. He cadges money from his hard up daughter, spends the night before his wedding getting intoxicated and generally sewing his wild oats, sells Eliza for a meagre five pounds in a calculated transaction with Higgins and yet still manages to be something of a charmer. Bravo!
The scenery is quite a work of art. I’m particularly impressed by Higgins’ lavish study which incorporates a period desk, chesterfield sofa and armchair, a gallery and a sweeping staircase – perfectly designed for a newly transformed Eliza to descend, showing off her glamorous gown and glittering jewels to their best advantage.
The cast is large so the stage is busy with action in scenes like Covent garden, Ascot Race Course and the Embassy Ball. This translates to a lot of work for the costume department! It’s the first time my son has ever been able to see the actors’ faces, the set and costumes properly so thank you BLOC for putting so much effort into making this special for him (and for the rest of the audience of course, but I’m particularly grateful on behalf of my boy!). The busy scenes contrast well with the more intimate scenes: in the study and in the garden of the charming Mrs Higgins (Jenny Foster).
There are big ensemble dance numbers with male and female groups performing demanding, energetic routines and often singing at the same time or straight afterwards. If I were in a show like this, I’m certain I’d be lurking at the back trying my hardest to get the steps right but I checked and couldn’t spot a single weak link in there!
Although I’ve only seen the film before, most of the music is familiar. Well known songs include “Wouldn’t it be Loverly?”, “I could have danced all night” and the spectacular big number, “Get Me to the Church on Time”.
MY FAIR LADY AGE SUITABILITY
There’s lots of dialogue between songs which my boys always like. I think it’s because it makes the plot easier to follow. Had my week turned out differently I would have taken my eight year old who wanted to see this, although some bits may have gone over his head. I’d happily recommend My Fair Lady for family viewing although there are no children in the show or clever gimmicks so it may not have maximum appeal for them.
BLOC has put together a funny, clever show with familiar songs, well-executed dance numbers and a polished performance all round. Well done to everyone involved in My Fair Lady!
For more information or to book tickets to My Fair Lady, click here*. As usual, please do share your thoughts about the show or our review in the comments below.
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BOOK TICKETS TO MY FAIR LADY
Tuesday 26th – Saturday 30th September
Evenings at 7.30 pm
Matinees on Wed & Sat at 2.30 pm
Signed performance Wed 7.30pm
Tickets: from £16.90
Concessions available at certain performances
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DISCLOSURE: WE RECEIVED TICKETS FOR PURPOSES OF THIS REVIEW. ALL OPINIONS ARE MY/OUR OWN.
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