Wasn’t it loverly? A review of ‘My Fair Lady’

Yes, that is the spelling of ‘lovely’ in Eliza’s beautiful song ‘Wouldn’t it Be Loverly’, that was sung exquisitely by both Isabella and Amélie in the principle role of Eliza Doolittle, with their respective casts.  It was an amazing feat to have two casts, on different performances.  This allowed so many pupils to not only tread the boards that have been bare for so long due to restrictions caused by the pandemic, but also gave over 50 pupils the opportunity to work backstage as members of the crew in the creation of a magnificent set that rivalled any West End production.

The set was created so superbly by Mrs Rosemary Byrne and the Art and Design Department, with the incredible structure made possible by Mr Chris Wilson and his company at WLX Productions.  Lighting and properties were delightful with wonderful costume, overseen by Mrs Keren Butler and Ms Cathrin Woods, and hair and make-up by Mrs Zoe Ireland and Ms Charlotte Clifford.  Indeed, the atmosphere backstage was as exciting and encouraging as from the audience in the front of stage.  The performance was televised on a big screen back stage and pupils from both casts cheered and clapped as their fellow actors returned for a costume change.  The intricacies of the set changes were remarkable, with stagehands expertly managed by Miss Polly White while Mrs Ludivine Fitzwater collated a fabulous collection of properties to enhance each scene.  The stage transformed from marketplace in Covent Garden, to Higgins’ study, Ascot races and a garden setting with aplomb, amid cascades of dancers all choreographed by Mrs Jessica Hocking.

Indeed, as the Artistic Director, Mrs Helen de Mattos, said in her final words at the end of the last performance “the whole theme was of transformation”: Eliza from market flower-seller to a refined young woman fit for a ball; a true Cinderella transformation.  Mrs de Mattos developed this theme through the metamorphosis of the set and production, underpinned by the magnificence of the orchestral accompaniment so brilliantly performed and expertly orchestrated by Musical Director, Dr Ian Taylor, who also ensured the choral as well as soloists’ singing was sublime.

The stage had begun as a small mock up on the Artistic Director’s drama table and took on Noah’s Ark proportions when built on the stage but, as Mrs de Mattos said, it was also the transformation of the older pupils in their roles that reminded us all of their own transformations, from when they were in Year 7 to becoming such convincing and consummate actors in the upper Year Groups, as Higgins (Charlotte and Lyla), Pickering (Keira and Lily), Doolittle (Emily and Georgia), and the long suffering mother of Henry Higgins (Amelia and Madeline), to name a few of the key stars.  Here was a cast – on whichever night we saw the performance – to transport us to its origin of Bernard Shaw’s ‘Pygmalion’, among laughter, pathos and charm, so much charm, as well as glitter, so much glitter, and with the inspirational Alan Jay Lerner’s masterpiece of lyrical joy that is ‘My Fair Lady’ combined with the perfect musical score of Frederick Loewe.  All was produced by the innovative industry of Mrs Laura Evans-Jones and ticket sales were, understandably, sold out but ‘with a little bit of luck’ you were able to see this most memorable performance.

Mrs Lori Winch-Johnson