Practically everything Dame Julie Andrews has touched has turned to gold since the beginning of her career, and the 60th anniversary production of 'My Fair Lady' at QPAC was no exception.
With Julie in the director's chair after starring as lead girl Eliza Doolittle in the original Broadway production, the show was destined to be a shining success.
Two minutes prior to curtain, Julie Andrews herself casually entered the Lyric Theatre, taking her seat in the stalls. The audience erupted into applause, and just like that, the mood was set.
The set design for 'My Fair Lady' was stunning. Each scene was separated by a short musical interval, and as the lights went down after a scene, they would come back on again to reveal a completely different location. This is done in countless shows, but there was something about the way it was done in this show that made it particularly impressive.
Professor Higgins' house was beautiful. It was clear that a huge amount of effort was put into making sure it was well-kept, upper class and gorgeous to look at. The juxtaposition of the dirty streets and Higgins' house set the tone for the whole show: an observation of the behaviours and living environments between two classes.
Speaking of Professor Higgins, 'Downton Abbey' star Charles Edwards played that role wonderfully. He was delightfully detestable in his desire to change Eliza, and it was equally hilarious and cringeworthy seeing him wonder why women were so difficult to deal with when he was so polite and understanding... Or so he thought.Image © Jeff Busby
Eliza's transformation from Cockney flower girl on the streets of London to upper class, well-spoken woman was done naturally and believably, which is a huge credit to Anna O'Byrne and her abilities. What made this clear was that she was identically breathtaking as the flower girl as she was the proper version of herself. There was no disconnect; it was evident that we'd watched one woman go through a transformation.
To cap off a show full of brilliant sets and an extremely talented cast (Reg Livermore shone as Alfred P Doolittle and Tony Llewellyn-Jones was loveable and sweet as Colonel Pickering... I could go on) was the music.
'Why Can't The English' examined flaws in pronunciation and grammar cleverly, 'Wouldn't It Be Loverly' imagined a better life for those living on the streets, and a stand-out was 'With A Little Bit Of Luck', sung mainly by Reg Livermore and receiving wild applause. 'The Rain In Spain' was an energetic, celebratory number, as Eliza finally learned how to pronounce 'the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain' after hours of help from Professor Higgins.
The band below the stage deserved the rowdy response they received at the end of the show. The music throughout 'My Fair Lady' was played beautifully, and captured the emotion of the cast exceptionally from beginning to end.
'My Fair Lady' has carried on strong from its beginnings in the 1950s, and proved at QPAC that it's still just as lovable and stunning as it has always been.
Julie Andrews directed the show wonderfully, using her experience with it to present a work of theatrical art that doesn't – and shouldn't – have a time stamp.
'My Fair Lady' Tour Dates
14 March-30 April – Queensland Performing Arts Centre12 May-9 July – Regent Theatre (Melbourne)24 August-24 September – Capitol Theatre (Sydney)