The big tent on the Greensward is a big thing for Frinton Summer Theatre. Marking the finale run of the theatrical season, Clive Brill (Producer & Artistic Director) usually selects a big show where the creative juices can really run wild in the central stage, and the live band can rip out the scores with abandon.
‘My Fair Lady’ is the 2023 big top production, a musical theatre piece by Lerner and Loewe. The story follows Eliza Doolittle (Jennifer Louise Jones) a flower girl in Covent Garden as she learns how to become a lady under the guidance of Henry Higgins (Alan Cox). It’s an interesting way into the class question for one’s accent can affect one’s position in life and this exploration through Higgins’ education of Eliza and her slum dialect can be seen as she transforms not only linguistically, but also societally.
The traverse design of the stage – allowing the audience a full 360-degree view of the show, means there are no hiding places for the actors. It is a potential weakness that has been leveraged as a strength and allows the choreography (Tracey Collier) to use expansive and naturalistic movements throughout from big dance-off scenes to smaller, more intimate affairs. The result is that at any moment an audience member may feel they can step into a scene and become a part of the story.
‘My Fair Lady’ premiered on Broadway in 1956, almost seven decades ago, and some of the themes and ideas presented did feel a little dated in today’s times. While I appreciate the roles Henry Higgins and his sidekick Colonel Hugh Pickering (Miles Richardson) were playing, at times it did feel rather overt Mansplaining and I was chomping at the bit for Eliza to give them a good what for.
Freddy Eynsford-Hill (Josh St. Clair) provided the complete opposite of these alpha males as he languidly strolled about the streets like a love-sick puppy waiting for his chance with Eliza.
Without a doubt the star of the performance is Eliza. The genius casting of Jennifer Louise Jones is a gift to the show, and she plays an adorable Eliza who charms everyone with her wit and spunk. Watching her transform from the gutter to the belle of the ball was a wonder. She has a magical soprano voice and her rendition of ‘I could have danced all night’ was a lovely, sweet scene that she whole-heartedly owned for herself.
‘My Fair Lady’ is an alternative love story. Packed full of well-known toe tapping hits the band display huge talent in their musical performance. The enthusiasm of everyone involved is clear to see and being able to see such a big production locally is a real boon to the audience who would usually have to travel to the West End for such a show.
Playing until 2nd September 2023, https://www.frintonsummertheatre.org/
Reviewer: Samantha Collett
Reviewed: 22nd August 2023
North West End UK Rating: 3