Review: My Fair Lady – lively, engaging, effortless at the Bristol Hippodrome

PUBLISHED: 13:18 27 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:21 27 September 2017

Henry Higgins, Eliza Doolittle and Colonel Pickering. Picture: McPhersonPhotography

Henry Higgins, Eliza Doolittle and Colonel Pickering. Picture: McPhersonPhotography

McPHERSON PHOTOGRAPHY

An amateur production company took on the challenge of creating the grandeur and elegance of My Fair Lady and succeeded a hundred times over at a performance at the Bristol Hippodrome last night (Thursday).

Charlotte Hunter as Eliza Doolittle. Picture: McPhersonPhotographyCharlotte Hunter as Eliza Doolittle. Picture: McPhersonPhotography

In truth, BLOC Productions’ version of My Fair Lady was incredibly close to a professional show, and a great follow-up to the highly acclaimed Fiddler On The Roof performed by the group last year.

My Fair Lady tells the story of a poor flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, given elocution lessons by Professor Higgins so she can pass as a member of the aristocracy and he can win a bet.

The leading role of Eliza must surely be one of the most challenging in musicals. The huge vocal range needed for numbers such as I Could Have Danced All Night meant Audrey Hepburn’s voice was dubbed in the Academy Award-winning film.

Charlotte Hunter as Eliza Doolittle. Picture: McPhersonPhotographyCharlotte Hunter as Eliza Doolittle. Picture: McPhersonPhotography

Charlotte Hunter took on that challenge in her first performance with BLOC in a principal role at the Hippodrome. Though at times she was pushed by the challenging high and low notes needed for the likes of musical number Show Me, she shone when left alone on stage to show Eliza at her most content and most vulnerable.

She flawlessly changed her accent from Cockney to elegant received pronunciation, yet never lost the essence of Eliza’s fierce independence – the key element which makes the character so bewitching.

In the wrong hands, Eliza’s possible love interest and primary antagonist Professor Higgins is arrogant and entitled, and a thoroughly unlikeable character. Thankfully this role was in the perfect hands with Peter Cottell, who had excellent comic timing. His performance can only be described as effortless.

Charlotte Hunter as Eliza Doolittle and Peter Cottell as Henry Higgins. Picture: McPhersonPhotographyCharlotte Hunter as Eliza Doolittle and Peter Cottell as Henry Higgins. Picture: McPhersonPhotography

Colonel Pickering’s role was ably executed by Chris Parslow, who brought much-needed warmth and humour. And Simon Vardakis as Eliza’s father perfectly blended physical comedy with charm and a cheeky grin. The music numbers With A Little Bit Of Luck and Get Me To The Church On Time were wonderfully danced, and provided some of the stand-out moments.

A great leading cast is nothing without the ensemble – and thankfully My Fair Lady was filled with equally great dancers, actors and singers who brought Edwardian London to life.

The costumes were immaculate, the sets were stunning, and it was lively, engaging, funny and beautifully-performed.

Freddie Eynsford-Hill, played by Craig Rees. Picture: McPhersonPhotographyFreddie Eynsford-Hill, played by Craig Rees. Picture: McPhersonPhotography

My Fair Lady is not touring the UK as a professional show – but this is as close as you’re going to get, and you’ll hardly notice the difference.

The show will be at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday.

You can buy tickets, priced £16.90-30.40 on the Bristol Hippodrome’s website.

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