Four Star review of My Fair Lady at Leeds Playhouse

Katie Bird (Eliza Doolittle) with My Fair Lady company members Tom Smith, Satriya Krisna, Paul Gibson, Simon Grange. Picture: Pamela RaithKatie Bird (Eliza Doolittle) with My Fair Lady company members Tom Smith, Satriya Krisna, Paul Gibson, Simon Grange. Picture: Pamela Raith
Katie Bird (Eliza Doolittle) with My Fair Lady company members Tom Smith, Satriya Krisna, Paul Gibson, Simon Grange. Picture: Pamela Raith
Stage: My Fair LadyLeeds PlayhouseYvette Huddleston 4/5

The collaboration between Leeds Playhouse and Opera North has been an extremely fruitful one, with two excellent revivals of the Sondheim musicals Into the Woods in 2016 and A Little Night Music in 2021/22; selecting the Lerner and Loewe classic My Fair Lady for their third co-production is another inspired choice.

Once again directed by Playhouse artistic director James Brining, the production is superbly accomplished and an uplifting, joyous treat. Opera North soprano Katie Bird is perfectly cast as Eliza Doolittle – her feisty characterisation of the young Cockney flower seller is instantly appealing and her performances of the much-loved familiar songs are of outstanding quality – Wouldn’t It Be Loverly, The Rain in Spain and I Could Have Danced All Night were especially impressive.

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John Hopkins as arrogant linguist Henry Higgins, who sets out to transform her into what he considers to be a “proper lady”, is suitably patronising and patriarchal which makes his later redemption all the more poignant. Dean Robinson as the decent and reasonable Colonel Pickering is a nice counterpoint, while Helen Evora as kind, fair-minded housekeeper Mrs Pearce and Miranda Bevin as Higgins’ formidable but warm mother ably demonstrate, contrary to the professor’s beliefs, the inestimable worth, capability and fortitude of women. Richard Moseley-Evans makes a twinkly, roguish Alfred Doolittle – he and the chorus have a lot of fun with his big number Get Me to the Church on Time – while Ahmed Hamad’s portrayal of lovelorn Freddy Eynsford-Hill is spot-on and his On the Street Where You Live is beautifully sung.

Dean Robinson (Col Pickering) John Hopkins (Henry Higgins) and Katie Bird (Eliza Doolittle) in My Fair Lady. Picture: Pamela RaithDean Robinson (Col Pickering) John Hopkins (Henry Higgins) and Katie Bird (Eliza Doolittle) in My Fair Lady. Picture: Pamela Raith
Dean Robinson (Col Pickering) John Hopkins (Henry Higgins) and Katie Bird (Eliza Doolittle) in My Fair Lady. Picture: Pamela Raith

Madeleine Boyd’s clever composite set, combining Higgins’ boxfile-filled study with a Victorian London pub frontage, works well and there are some lovely, inventive design touches throughout with the Ascot races scene a particular highlight, employing an ingeniously simple device to transform members of the Opera North Chorus, dressed as cockney market traders, into upper class race-goers for their sublime rendition of Ascot Gavotte.

The performances from the leads and the supporting cast are all top-notch with Lerner and Loewe’s fabulous melodies and witty lyrics all delivered with great flair. The icing on the cake is the superb live music from the talented Orchestra of Opera North, conducted by Oliver Rundell. All in all, an unmissable night of musical theatre at its very best.

To June 29.

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