Saturday, 29 December 2012

My Fair Lady, Sheffield Crucible, 29/12/12

A trip over to Sheffield to see their Christmas offering at the Crucible appears to be my new Christmas tradition. Last year it was the wonderful Company, and this year I managed to snaffle one of the few remaining seats for a matinee performance of My Fair Lady (note to self – book early for 2013!), which was equally special and an excellent way to round off the festive season.

As I entered the auditorium the hard working cast were already on stage conjuring up the atmosphere of Covent Garden market. There was hustle and bustle, life and laughter, and I could tell I was going to be in for a treat. Obviously the story, and the musical, are well known, although like many people I know it solely through the film version with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. But seeing it on the stage, with such an excellent cast, gorgeous design and exuberant choreography really brought new life to it.

Dominic West is perfectly cast as the cantankerous and condescending Professor Higgins, exasperating to the extreme, but I can definitely see why Eliza fell for him! He’s got amazing stage presence and a wonderfully powerful voice, and gives a cleverly judged performance that gives rise to some lovely comic moments but is never overplayed. I have seen him once before on stage, doing Shakespeare at the Wyndhams (where he quite literally fell at my feet as he tumbled off the stage into the front row – scripted I think, but certainly one of my most memorable audience experiences!), so I knew he was a great classical actor, but it seems there is no end to his talents.

Carly Bawden, as Eliza Doolittle, was a perfect partnering to West. She gave an outstanding performance – feisty yet vulnerable and you completely believed the relationship between the two of them. Her singing voice is simply stunning, so amazingly powerful and with such range she takes your breath away.

The ensemble cast work brilliantly together, and there are as you’d expect some great song and dance numbers with fabulous and extremely energetic choreography, ‘Get Me to the Church on Time’ being a particular highlight. The design of the show is gorgeous, a clever revolve allows seamless changes between the various scenes and the set is beautiful and filled with detail. As you’d expect the costumes, particularly in the Ball scene and Ascot are divine, and the direction makes great use of the space, ensuring there is no such thing as a bad seat for the audience.

The performance gained a well-deserved ovation and there were lots of smiling faces as I left the auditorium and floated back to the station quietly singing! A fabulous production on every level. Who needs the West End when we have talent like this in the North!

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