My Fair LadyLeft – Anna O’Byrne and Charles Edwards. Photo – Brian Geach. Cover – Anna O’Byrne. Photo – Jeff Busby

If there ever were a director equipped to handle the mammoth task of the 60th Anniversary production of My Fair Lady, it would have to be the great Dame Julie Andrews.

Having originated the role of Eliza Doolittle in 1956, Dame Andrews knows her way around the musical, and is able to infuse it with the very heart it needs.

Expert staging and vibrant costumes compliment the much-loved musical based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion about the cockney flower seller and the phonetics professor who places a bet that he can convince the world Eliza is a Duchess under his vocal teachings.

There is a great amount of joy in this production, from the ensemble to the leading cast members, none so more than Australia Theatre’s national treasure Reg Livermore. Livermore slips effortlessly into the gutter as Arthur P Doolittle, Eliza’s hard drinking conman of a father. Here he is able to flex his vaudevillian chops and is a crowd-pleasing spectacle full of life and laughter.

Anna O’Byrne has the impossible task of performing the role of Eliza, however impossible seems to be her forte after stepping into the role of Christine in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera and originating the role of Christine Daae in the sequel Love Never Dies.

It is no surprise then that O’Byrne shines as Eliza, not only entrancing the audience with her stunning vocals but with her remarkable ability as an actor. Too easily Eliza could become a caricature, and O’Byrne gives a heartfelt performance with enough care and conviction to make a Dame proud.

Pitted against Charles Edwards as Professor Henry Higgins, the sparring pair is reminiscent of Petruchio and Katherina in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew as O’Byrne refuses to let Eliza become a pawn to Edward’s Higgins.

Edwards is so charmingly arrogant and so blissfully ignorant as Professor Higgins it is difficult to dislike him – even when he is behaving appallingly, he finds the warmth of the character and breathes new life into it.

Joined by Aussie theatre royalty Robin Nevin as Mrs. Higgins, her dry wit and commanding presence are captivating.

The Regent Theatre in Melbourne is a fitting venue for this very fine production; it is regal, elegant, and appropriate for a diamond jubilee of a classic musical. Nothing has been overlooked, from costumes to accents, lighting changes and staging, My Fair Lady is more than fair, it is flawless.

Opera Australia and John Frost present
My Fair Lady
Lerner and Loewe

Directed by Julie Andrews

Venue: Regent Theatre
Dates: from May 12, 2017
Tickets: from $89.90


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