Pre show music for Anna O’Byrne’s autobiographical snippet, Becoming Eliza, is Mancini, a musical nod to Julie Andrews’ late husband, Blake Edwards. Anna confides that Julie wanted to stage the show in homage to Moss Hart, the original director of My Fair Lady and to Blake, so it’s a nice and subtle tribute.
The show begins with a comical icebreaker and we delightfully discover that Anna’s journey to becoming Eliza starts when she was a prepubescent violinist, part of the orchestra playing in a school production of My Fair Lady, in which her sister had the starring role.
From here, anecdote is beautifully cantilevered into the selected songs, that range from Camelot, My Fair Lady (of course), Thoroughly Modern Millie, Victor, Victoria and more. It’s surely a celebration of her icon, Julie Andrews, who became her mentor, as much as her evolution of Eliza Dolittle.
Anna recalls living in London, ready to toss show biz for a receptionist job when she got the call that she had won the role of Eliza. The total immersion in the character, the rigourous rehearsal period, opening night and the stunningly successful season are covered in song, sketch and speech.
A two and a half year engagement with the role elicits charming recollection and reminiscence delivered in a most charming chamber concert.
Julie Andrews’ voice, in an early review of her performance in My Fair Lady in London, was described as limpid as outer space. The same can be said of Anna O’Byrne’s vocal quality and ability, an attribute that surely boosted her securing the role of Eliza under Andrew’s direction.
Her completely clear and melodious and buoyant soprano renders every song – every lyric, syllable, vowel and consonant – a clear cut diamond.
Directed by Sharon Millerchip with musical direction by Guy Simpson leading with piano, accompanied by cello, violin and double base, Becoming Eliza is absolutely “loverly”.
Sydney Opera House in association with Enda Markey presents
Director Sharon Millerchip
Venue: Playhouse, Sydney Opera House NSW
Dates: 9 – 12 June 2022