SLO’s Fair Lady

Mar 1 2019 | By More

My Fair Lady seen in Southern Light

Southern Light is bringing a new production of Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady to the King’s from Tuesday 5 March 2019, and promise a 21st century feel to a story which is over a century old.

The musical itself, with its top musical tunes such as Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?, I Could Have Danced All Night and Get Me To the Church On Time! is half that age, of course. But George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, on which it is based, was published in 1913.

Rebekah Lansley (Eliza) and chorus in rehearsal. Pic: Southern Light

The story is the same for both – Henry Higgins, a world famous phonetics expert and upper class bachelor, wagers with his best pal Colonel Pickering that he can pass Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle off as a high society duchess, just by teaching her to speak proper English.

Although it explores society’s prejudices about class and gender, both were written in times when attitudes towards both were positively antediluvian by our standards. Which creates something of a quandary for the company, as director Andy Johnston explains.

“The way we are taking it is that Eliza is a lot more empowered than she might have been in the past,” he told All Edinburgh Theatre. “The decisions about where she ends up and how she gets there are her decisions not anybody else’s.

“Eliza overhears that Higgins can make her better and then she goes to his house. As opposed to the traditional way of doing these things which has two men taking a stray girl into the house.

stronger and more empowered

“In the #MeToo way of looking at things you need to re-address this and that is what we have done and we are looking very much at a stronger, more empowered Eliza and, if anything, a slightly more besotted and slightly more love-lorn Higgins.”

Rebekah Lansley (Eliza) and Keith Kilgore (Alfred P. Doolittle). Pic: Scott Parker

Rebekah Lansley will be playing Eliza Doolittle for Southern Light, the role made famous by Audrey Hepburn in the movie version, after Julie Andrews had starred in both the Broadway and West End productions.

Lansley told Æ: “Eliza has been my dream role for so many years now, when I heard Southern Light were doing it, I had to audition. I didn’t really expect to get it, but I needed to try anyway otherwise I would have regretted it if I didn’t.

“I love the music. The music is what I fell in love with first. I sang Without You years ago, and I just loved this part. I think she is such an interesting character, such a strong female role and I think she is just really good acting and singing part for a female.”

Andy Johnston believes that it is the universality of the story that makes My Fair Lady such an unforgettable piece of theatre.

innate desire

He says: “The innate desire to make something of yourself, to improve your life and your future are very human themes that we can all relate to. What George Bernard Shaw had to say about class, perceptions of class and social attitudes rings as true today as it did when he wrote Pygmalion over a hundred years ago.”

John Bruce (Professor Henry Higgins) and Rebekah Lansley (Eliza Doolittle). Pic: Scott Parker

The role of Henry Higgins was made famous by Rex Harrison in the film and early stage productions. However, while Harrison played the role well into his seventies, the rather younger John Bruce, in his third year with the company, will be taking it on for SLO.

Bruce told Æ: “Obviously trying to not to be a Rex Harrison is very difficult, that is what everyone expects to see in professor Higgins. So it has been really great to work with Andy and Rebekah and try and humanise the character.”

Age is not the only issue: “Rex Harrison sang about three notes for the entire show, and Crawford Moyes our MD has been really great in teaching me an entire score,” Bruce says, adding with a laugh “I now know five notes!”

While Edinburgh-born Bruce is now fully conversant with the Higgins’ received pronunciation – to the point where he is now correcting his flat mate’s pronunciation – it is the age similarity between Lansley and Bruce on which his director dwells.

hint of romance

Andy Johnston says: “Much is made of the central relationship between Higgins and Eliza. Is it a pupil/teacher relationship? Is there any hint of romance? Do they end up together or not?

“Shaw had very strong ideas regarding this and so did Lerner and Lowe – not always the same views. With this production, we have not set out to finally and irrevocably solve these conundrums, but to investigate and find the truth in this most complex of relationships. Well, our version of the truth!”

SLO will arrive on the King’s stage next week with their tails fully up. The company includes such well known performers as Keith Kilgore as Alfred P. Doolittle, Alan Hunter as Colonel Pickering, Averyl Nash as Mrs Higgins, David Bartholomew as Freddy Eynsford-Hill and Judith Walker as Mrs Pearce.

With Johnston on directing duties and MD Crawford Moyes in charge of the pit, choreography will once again be handled by Louise Williamson.

And Johnston couldn’t be happier. :”It is not often you get to work on one of the genuine legends of musical theatre,” he says.

“Our company of over seventy, backed by a huge backstage crew and a twenty-three piece orchestra have been working very hard to bring this classic tale to life for a new generation and I couldn’t be prouder of the entire team.”

My Fair Lady
King’s Theatre 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ.Phone booking: 0131 529 6000
Evenings: 7.30pm; Matinee Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.


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