My Fair Lady at the London Coliseum
My Fair Lady is one of those musicals that are done so frequently that it takes a lot of effort for it to stand out. It has been a while since it was last revived in the West End, and Bartlett Sher’s production plays it safe: it’s conventional, almost to the point of being orthodox. The only real difference from some other productions is the twist on the god-awful ending that Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe placed over George Bernard Shaw’s original – and so it should be. Yes, the depictions of Covent Garden by set designer Michael Yeargan are just as stunning as ever, and Higgins’s study is certainly crowd-pleasing, but there’s nothing original or unexpected in there.
The costumes by Catherine Zuber and choreography by Trude Rittman are similarly conservative, although occasional moments do conjure some scenic magic – such as the whole sequence at the embassy ball or the complex rendition of Get Me to the Church on Time before the final act. But these are more the exception than the rule, and other songs – such as The Rain in Spain or Why Can’t the English – might be well acted but are comparatively sterile.
Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing; people coming to see the musical will get exactly what they wanted to see, and a great cast makes it enjoyable throughout. Henry Higgins is performed by Harry Hadden-Paton as a nerdier, eccentric gentleman stereotype, unlike Rex Harrison’s iconic and much more tyrannical depiction, although he still manages to pull off the vile misogyny the character is known for. Vanessa Redgrave is a stupendous Mrs Higgins, giving a much-loved character the necessary prowess she deserves each time she is on-stage. A relative newcomer – and show-stealer – is Amara Okereke’s Eliza Doolittle. Depicted as feisty from the start, her development from flower girl to a pillar of strength is admirably well portrayed.
As such, Sher’s My Fair Lady revival might not bring much new to the table, but it is the same old show audiences have come to love over the years. Its charming cast and traditional production are certainly worthy and will guarantee an evening full of wonderful music.
Photo: Mark Brenner
My Fair Lady is at the London Coliseum from 20th May until 27th August 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a behind the scenes video for the production here: