|Alice Ferguson (Mrs Higgins) - D.G.Maloney (Professor Higgins) - Stephanie Bailey (Eliza Bailey)
Directed by Anne Somes for Free-Rain Theatre Company.
Musical direction by Alexander Unikowski - Choreography by Michelle Heine
Set designed by Cate Clelland - Costumes designed by Fiona Leach.
Lighting designed by Jacob Aquilina - Sound designed by Joel Edmonson.
The Q, 30th
August to 25th September 2022.
successfully presented a succession of contemporary musicals in recent years,
Free-Rain Theatre Company has turned its attention to a musical which from the
time it premiered on Broadway in 1956 has been hailed as a classic.
George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play “Pygmalion” which Alan Jay Lerner cleverly
mined to produce his inspired book and lyrics, teamed with a glorious score
composed by Frederick Loewe, “My Fair Lady”, even in Anne Somes’ scaled-back
production for Free-Rain theatre Company, still has the capacity to enchant and
surprise, especially with the relevance of what it has to say to a contemporary
audience in an era focussed on female empowerment.
limited resources available to her at the Q, Somes has wisely dispensed with
the lavish set pieces usually associated with this musical, in favour of simple
impressionist setting designed by Cate Clelland; relying on some elegant
furnishing and a single LED screen to indicate changes of locale.
Leach’s attractive costumes signal period without aiming for historical
accuracy and Michelle Heine’s ever-inventive choreography for the ensemble,
together with Somes’s clever use of lighting to create attractive tableaus to
introduce various scenes, provided
sufficient spectacle to compensate for the lack of scenic elements.
It’s an approach
of course that leaves the cast very exposed. However Somes has assembled and
showcased an outstanding cast perfectly capable of coping with such exposure.
|D.G. Maloney (Professor Higgins) - Pat Gallagher (Colonel Pickering)
D. G. Maloney, as the proudly misogynist Henry Higgins, is outstanding. Maloney
offers a dazzling interpretation of the role. His perfect diction throughout
whether speaking or singing, his cleverly phrased lyrics and command of the
stage makes his a performance to behold.
impressive however is Stephanie Bailey as the cockney flower-seller, Eliza
Doolittle, with whom Higgins wins a wager with his friend Colonel Pickering to
pass off as a high-born ‘Lady’. Bailey matches Maloney every step of the way
with a confident, beautifully sung and completely captivating interpretation
which culminates towards the end of the show in a fiery argument between the
two when Eliza refuses to bow to Higgins’ domination.
|Stephanie Bailey (Eliza Doolittle) and male ensemble
this impressive trio, Pat Gallagher as Colonel Pickering, in one of his best
performances to date, contributes a warm and thoroughly delightful
characterisation as the voice of reason who “treats a flower girl like a lady”
in contrast to Higgins “who treats a lady like a flower girl”.
as a surprisingly scrubbed-up Alfred P Doolittle, comes into his own in the
rollicking “Get Me to the Church on Time” and “I’m Getting Married in the
Morning”. Pippin Carroll shines in a charmingly off-beat interpretation as the
lovelorn, Freddy Eynsford-Hill, earning cheers for his lusty rendition of “On
the Street Where You Live”.
|Isaac Gordon (Alfred P. Doolittle) and ensemble
Ferguson goes a long way towards stealing the show as the elegant and wise, Mrs
Higgins, and Jill Young charms as Higgins’ long-suffering housekeeper, Mrs
The large ensemble
fill the stage with a multitude of individual supporting characters, singing
and dancing with engaging enthusiasm, no doubt inspired by Alexander
Unikowski’s excellent orchestra which succeeds in capturing the magnificence of
Lowe’s superb score.
Free Rain Theatre has created a charming production of a theatrical masterpiece
which is guaranteed to have you humming all the way home.
This review first published in Canberra City News on 2nd. September 2022.