Sunday, 22 May 2022

REVIEW: My Fair Lady at the London Coliseum

The long-awaited return of Lerner & Loewe’s ageless musical My Fair Lady has finally returned to the UK. For the first time in two decades, this timeless show has graced London with its splendour and with “a little bit of luck” will signify the return of more golden age musicals to the West End. 

First, we must appreciate the theatre itself. The London Coliseum is the perfect venue for such a nostalgic and grand show, the entire theatre dripping in opulence as soon as you enter the auditorium. The Lincoln Center Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady is one of only a few that could fill such a majestic space with its impressiveness. 

Based on George Bernard Shaw’s classic play Pygmalion, the story follows Henry Higgins, a brilliant yet unfeeling professor of phonetics, who accepts the challenge of taking working-class flower girl Eliza Doolittle and refining her into an upper-class lady fit for royalty. After a rocky start with tumultuous tempers between the two, Eliza makes a breakthrough in her phonetics training and her relationship with Higgins. The two finally see eye to eye. 

With a stunningly lush score by Lerner and Loewe, the music comes alive with its ample 40-piece orchestra, infusing the auditorium with pure excellence, literally sweet music to the ears, with classics such as I Could Have Danced All Night and On The Street Where You Live. Of course, the true musical highlights lie in Eliza’s solos (played by Amara Okereke) and the ensemble verses; such clipped, crisp harmonies executed with precision. Okereke’s absolutely effortless vocals carry the show with such ease and grace, the audience are left mesmerised by the songbird. Professor Henry Higgins, played by Harry Hadden-Paton, delivers his wordy numbers like Why Can’t The English? and A Hymn To Him with poise and refined eccentricity. The largest and probably most memorable choral number was the famous Get Me To The Church On Time, comprising of mellifluous, rich vocals from the full company and energetic, joyous dancing, complete with cross-dressing and acrobatics. 

The lavish sets, provided by Michael Yeargan, completely transport the audience back to the early twentieth century. The intricate details of Professor Higgin’s residence, the Old Bell Pub and Tottenham Court Road combined with the exquisite costumes by Catherine Zuber, make for a time-travelling trip to the post-Victorian era. 

Honorary mention has to go to the legendary Vanessa Redgrave, whose limited stage time did not take away from her captivating presence and fabulous comic timing. This marvel of a show is so superbly cast it cannot be faulted, not a weak member insight. At the end of the evening there was only one name being uttered from the thrilled spectators, and that, of course, was Amara Okereke. With an impressive string of previous theatre credits to her name, this by far is her breakout role. She carries the weight of this illustrious show on her shoulders whilst delivering an outstanding rendition of this complex and famous character. Her comical expression and timing are truly flawless as she simply embodies this immortal character, whilst adding her own flair and verve.

Bartlett Sher’s take on this ageless musical is absolutely not one to be missed this summer. It is everything you want and expect from a show with such stateliness and legacy.

Review by Esther Neville

Rating: ★★★★ 

Seat: Stalls J28 | Price of Ticket: £127.50

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