“MY FAIR LADY”    11 June 2010 ,    New Wimbledon Theatre        

 I was delighted to witness Wimbledon LOS return to the (New) Wimbledon Theatre after a break of a few years and hopefully a sufficiency of ticket sales for this production will allow the society to return to this venue on a more regular basis. Congratulations also on reaching the not inconsiderable achievement of attaining a history of 80 years. This is a great landmark in this day and age where societies are regularly going to the wall. A sign of a well run society indeed.

I would just like to start off by saying that this was the best production I have seen Wimbledon LOS perform. I felt the production was vibrant, colourful and pacey. It was a true ensemble piece and I can honestly say that everyone looked to be having a whale of a time. Facial expressions, voices, accents, costumes and a multi layered set all added to a very strong production.

This production was most entertaining under the Direction of Patrick Harrison. My Fair Lady is a very long show, too long probably, however by being imaginative Patrick was able to dispense of two scenes by merging the pub scenes (including a long freeze which requires extreme discipline) and doing away with the character of Mrs Hopkins. I have to say that the use of the servants was the most imaginative I have ever seen. I would guess that Patrick used his professional knowledge to some degree and for me it was exemplary. Congratulations to Patrick and his hard working technical and creative team. I enjoyed Kim Findlay’s choreography which was in unison yet challenging and very easy on the eye. The excellent orchestra under the Musical Direction of Holly Stout treated us to this fantastic and uplifting score. Strong choral harmonies were also in evidence as well as top sopranos clearly and audibly coming through. I seldom hear quality sopranos in a chorus.

The Set was well conceived and made full use of the playing space. The cast and crew were anonymous and invisible when moving the set which is always a good sign. Higgins’s main room was huge but tastefully decorated. For my own tastes I would have liked to have seen a gramophone or two. Covent Garden looked effective with two pillars, tea stall etc and both Ascot and the Embassy Ball were suitably lavish. The Lighting plot was effective and suitably moody, especially at Ascot and good use of a star cloth at the Embassy Ball. The Sound balance was good but on occasions the mics came in and out and I felt that Eliza generally needed a boost, particularly in ‘Wouldn’t it be Luvverly’ and ‘I Could Have Danced all Night’. The Costumes, wigs and accessories were excellent and added much colour. The Wardrobe team did a great job.

Other facets which I enjoyed were: the trio ‘The Rain in Spain’ was well executed and produced a lovely comical moment when all three were squashed on the sofa, also the incorporation of the chorus into ‘With a Little Bit O’ Luck’. I’ve already mentioned the servants but worth mentioning again – excellent use in ‘I’m an Ordinary Man’ and their overall work in Higgins’s living room was executed with military precision. Their vocals were excellent too. I also enjoyed the progressive waltz at the Embassy Ball and in particular the little twist at the end. Inevitably there were a couple of flaws but these were massively outweighed by the positives. Some of the chorus work was a little scrappy in places, such as: in the opening Covent Garden scene when Higgins comes amongst the costermongers, someone shouts ‘What’s the Row’, yet there was no noise and in general there needed to be more whooping and screaming during the production numbers, especially during ‘I’m Getting Married in the Morning’. These are fairly small points which in no way distracted from the overall effect. 

I particularly liked your splendid souvenir programme. Of course you are slightly limited by the Ambassador Group template but there was loads of show information accompanied by a sufficiency of society background and information. Cast photos and biographies are very welcome too, it helps to assess relative experience of the performers and creative team.

As mentioned this was a true ensemble production and I felt that all on stage and off contributed to a super production. There were some strong performances amongst the principals and I shall make a few comments on the main players, in programme order:

Jenny Bardwell – Mrs Pearce – Jenny was a forceful Mrs Pearce and stood up to Higgins when appropriate. This was a nice, lively portrayal of a character who can sometimes come across as a little insipid

Robin Clifford – Colonel Pickering – I normally see the Colonel played as an old buffer but it was refreshing to see Robin add some very welcome humour to the role

Jonny Clines – Professor Higgins – This part really suits Jonny’s skills as an actor and entertainer. He had command of the stage from minute one and was totally at ease in the part. Due to the vagueness of the age of Henry Higgins, this is a part that Jonny could well play again on several occasions

Gary Mannion – Freddy Eynsford-Hill – This was another performance which moved away from the normal and very much benefitted from it. Gary demonstrated a fantastic voice and brought a warm quirkiness to the role which was impressive

Emily McDonald – Eliza Doolittle – The whole show really hangs on the chemistry between Eliza and Higgins and in this production it really worked. This was in no small way attributable to Emily’s talents as an actress and a singer.

Des Muller – Alfred P Doolittle – The role of ‘Alfie’ was in the very capable and safe hands of Des. There was plenty of humour served up by Des and his sidekicks which was warmly received

Robert Owen – Zoltan Karpathy – This was a suitably exaggerated portrayal from Robert of the eccentric Zoltan Karpathy. A well judged performance which I thoroughly enjoyed and just shows that cameo roles can sound out.

Marion Stewart – Mrs Higgins – I loved Marion’s dry humour as Mrs Higgins which was impeccably delivered

There were significant contributions from other characters including Harry and Jamie (Ian Ward and Peter O’Donovan), Mrs Eynsford Hill (Hazel Channon), Pub landlord (Spencer Mitchell), all the individual characters with odd lines and in particular, the servants. All performed highly satisfactorily and added to the overall success of the show.

Once again thank you for inviting me to the New Wimbledon Theatre and best wishes for your future productions (hopefully some of them at this venue) – here’s to the next 80 years. Very best wishes.

Stephen Macvicar, NODA Rep, London Area 3

steve.macvicar@hotmail.co.uk

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