This production is based on the book and music by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, which were adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion. The original musical production of 1956 took place on Broadway before transferring to the West End and starred Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews in both productions. I have to confess a soft spot for this show as it was my first introduction to musical theatre as I can remember sitting on my auntie’s knee as a pre-school toddler with her singing “I could have danced all night” to me and from then on I was hooked!
The storyline is based around a cockney flower-seller, Eliza Doolittle, who is taken under the wing of Professor Henry Higgins, a phonetician, who undertakes a wager with his linguistic colleague, Colonel Pickering, that within six months he can transform Eliza’s coarse tones to those of a “proper” lady and be able to pass her off as a member of the aristocracy. Eventually of course, Eliza doesn’t just find the “correct” accent, she finds her voice and transforms the script from mere speech into song. More than just a standard “rags to riches” story, this is a romance which really does break down barriers in all areas of society.
The opening scene had the cast on stage for a rousing overture followed by Eliza’s poignant “Wouldn’t it be lovely”, which set the standard for the rest of the production. Right from the start, Maria Markland in her first ever leading role set the tone for the whole show with her amazing stage presence and superb vocals, moving from one character to the next with consummate ease. She was without doubt the outstanding performer on the night and deserves all the accolades which will definitely come her way after this performance. Ian Chatterton’s interpretation of the character of Professor Higgins complemented the roles taken on by those around him and throughout I was particularly impressed with his timing during the many musical numbers in which he took the lead.
The songs from this show are amongst the most well-known of any musical theatre production. “Wouldn’t it be lovely”, “With a little bit of luck”, “The rain in Spain”, “I could have danced all night”, “Get me to the church on time”, “I’ve grown accustomed to her face” …the list goes on. One that I was very impressed with was Jake Ridgeway’s Freddy whose performance of “On the street where you live” was one of the best vocal performances I have heard from him over many years of listening to his vocals.
Director Kerry Day, ably assisted by Lucy Worthington, has put together a production of which the whole cast and crew can be incredibly proud. I was impressed by the quality of the lighting and sound team, who bar for a couple of occasions when microphones were not turned on, overall did an excellent job.
One comment I would make which has nothing to do with the show’s production, but for some reason during Act 2 the air conditioning was switched off making the theatre oppressively hot and lead to a number of the audience leaving early. Hope this can be addressed for future shows.
The show continues until Saturday 24th June, and I believe tickets are still available for all nights at the Romiley Forum Theatre, so grab one if you can, I’m sure you will enjoy this production as much as I did.
Reviewer: David S Clarke
Reviewed: 21st June 2023
North West End UK Rating: