REVIEW BY IRINA DUNN
Well, La Grande Dame of musicals is playing to sell-out at audiences attending Opera Australia’s dazzling production of Lerner and Loewe’s masterpiece, probably the greatest representative of its genre.
Taryn Fiebig is a feisty and disarming Eliza Dolittle, the flowergirl whose cockney speech is transmogrified in six months into upper crust English as a result of a bet between the irascible linguist Henry Higgins and his friend Colonel Pickering, sung with great and glorious gusto by Rhys McConnochie.
As did Rex Harrison, the original Henry Higgins, Reg ‘Rocky Horror Show’ Livermore ‘talks on pitch’ with great aplomb, although he is, perhaps, less ‘pukka’ and more of a bully than his predecessor.
Robert Grubb performs the role of Eliza’s money-grubbing alcoholic father Alfie Dolitle, managing to extract sympathy and humour for a character who completely lacks moral values because he ‘can’t afford ’em.’ The rest of the cast is superb and it’s fantastic to see Nancye Hayes in all her finery as Henry’s mother.
The costumes and staging are outstanding and you’ve rarely seen such a magnificent line-up of glorious hats as in the scene at Ascot Racecourse, while conductor Andrew Greene draws a spirited and colourful performance from his orchestra.
There’s a story that, during the first spectacular season of MFL on Broadway in 1956 (2,717 straight performances), a woman noticed a vacant seat between her and the lady next to her and asked why it was empty. Was the lady’s husband a surgeon, perhaps, or away on some important government business’ ‘No,’ the lady replied, ‘unfortunately my husband died.’ The other woman asked, ‘but couldn’t one of your husband’s friends have brought you to the show” to which the lady replied, ‘no, they’re all at the funeral.’
Opera Australia’s production has also sold out but, before you heave a groan of disappointment, you can enjoy MFL at its return season at the Theatre Royal later in the year, when Richard E. Grant will be replacing Reg Livermore. Stay tuned.