“Let a woman in your life,” roars Professor Henry Higgins, “and your serenity is through. She’ll redecorate your home, from the cellar to the dome and then go on to the enthralling task of overhauling you.” It’s a scenario not unlike letting the winsome darling that is musical theatre loose among the club armchairs and smoking jackets of a classical music festival.
The dome of the Royal Albert Hall may have been safe from a substantial redesign, but last night the lights glowed hot pink and the stage teemed with more action than a whole cycle of Beethoven symphonies. John Wilson and his orchestra were back in the building and Eliza Doolittle wasn’t the only one who could have danced all night.
They had plenty of help from a cast of big names. Annalene Beechey brought us West End polish without any brashness, singing sweetly through classics “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?”, relishing the cockney flourishes of Act I particularly. She was supported by the magnificent Siân Phillips as long-suffering Mrs Higgins, and by the ardent foolishness of Julian Ovenden’s Freddy.
The chorus sang and danced, and shifted seamlessly between roles and stage-pictures, joining with the orchestra in giving a performance that matched the Royal Albert Hall’s cavernous space for dramatic dynamics. My Fair Lady was never going to rival this season’s operas – Les Troyens, Peter Grimes – for intensity, but John Wilson and his team made an unassailable case for the show’s right to sit proudly alongside them in this greatest of classical music festivals.
Alexandra Coghlan – The Arts Desk
Read the full article here.