My Fair Lady, Norwich

JOHN LAWSON Lerner and Loewe's familiar musical is performed at the Theatre Royal by the Norfolk & Norwich Operatic Society.

JOHN LAWSON

We've grown accustomed to Lerner and Loewe's familiar musical.

But while familiarity can breed the sort of contempt that 'Enry 'Iggins shows for Eliza, the moral of the story is that in the right hands both he and we come to realise what a diamond we have been given.

That realisation hits home right from curtain up on another sensational achievement from director and choreographer Ray Jeffery and his stunning company, the Norfolk & Norwich Operatic Society.


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The opening tableau has all the hustle, bustle – and noise – of a real London street as the workers, street vendors and hawkers go about their pell-mell lives.

As with South Pacific last year, I could only again marvel at how magnificently Jeffery employs his huge chorus.

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No moment is wasted, no move superfluous.

It set out the stall for a string of glorious sets and a splendidly dressed cast – so splendid indeed that the Ascot Gavotte scene drew spontaneous applause from the first-night audience.

From out of the bustling London crowds emerges Eliza (Sarah Pryde), who bursts into the action like a hurricane and goes on to devastate our senses with a performance of passion and power.

Every scene, as lady or flower girl, is beautifully judged as she wrings every ounce of emotion from the character.

She is perfectly matched by David Hawkins as Higgins, observing his “creation” with the infuriating logic that makes sense only to him – until it is almost too late.

John Fiddes and Christine Mullard are wonderful as the mediators Colonel Pickering and Mrs Higgins.

Mullard's drawing of Mrs Higgins is as fine a portrayal of the role as I have ever seen.

The danger with such well-known characters is that they can become caricatures of themselves but Eliza and her dad Alfred Doolittle (Peter Mottram) achieve it with ease.

Unfortunately, the same can not be said of Liam Gentry as the lovelorn Freddie, who is more seaside postcard than unworldly toff.

My only other criticism is over the sound design, the balance leaving the voices very definitely coming out of individual loudspeakers rather than the characters' mouths and the mix sometimes swamping voices amid the orchestra.

Hopefully this can be tweaked as this sell-out run continues.

Yes – it is already too late to buy a seat; a box office smash that is, once again, so richly deserved.

t My Fair Lady continues at the Theatre Royal until Saturday February 1. Box office: 01603 630000.

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