Thursday, 30 November 2017

REVIEW: My Fair Lady at the Mill at Sonning

Lerner and Lowe's wonderful musical set in 1912 London has a joyous score, a fairytale story and a serious message which makes this new production at the small intimate Sonning Mill a delight . The transformation from flower girl , to society lady to Higgin's equal of Eliza Doolittle is beautifully staged and performed by a cast of 12 and 5 musicians and the credit for this must go to Joseph Pitcher who has directed and choreographed the show so brilliantly. 

The small stage is used very effectively with the grey rear wall and arches acting as background to the interior scenes in Higgin's study as well as the external scenes in Covent Garden, Ascot , and his mother's Conservatory . The transformation with a few props between each scene is choreographed as part of the action and moves seamlessly without lessening the pace, while leaving as much space as possible on the small thrust stage for the performers. This is used most effectively in the main chorus numbers with exciting fresh choreography to enhance the showstopping music of "With a little bit of luck", "Ascot Gavotte" and "Get me to the church on time".

This is a show that require actors who can sing rather than singers who act and in Martin Fisher as Higgins and Bethan Nash as Eliza we are given two strong performances as they show how the respect and mutual admiration develops between them. They also give excellent renditions of their solo numbers such as , "I could have danced all night" and "I am an ordinary man". As is often the case Nash is more convincing and assured as the sophisticated Eliza than the "cor blimey" flower girl.

There is good support from the rest of the cast most notably Alex Hammond as Freddy Eynsford-Hill , the besotted young man , especially in "On the street where you live" and in the ensemble celebration of Higgins passing her off as a Princess in "You did it". 

This production brings out with delightful clarity the importance of how we treat each other regardless of class or gender and and makes its message one hundred years on as relevant today as when Shaw originally wrote the story .But it does it in an enjoyable and thoroughly entertaining way with some of the most memorable songs of musical theatre.

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★★★
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